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Mohs surgery (also known as Mohs micrographic surgery) is the removal of skin cancer through a series of small excisions while minimizing the amount of normal tissue removed. It is commonly used for the removal of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. A Mohs surgeon is a dermatologist who removes the lesion and then sends the patient to a plastic surgeon for an optimally cosmetic closure of the wound.
Mohs surgery differs from other techniques for skin cancer removal in that cancerous tissue is not removed all at once. Instead, Mohs surgery is done in multiple stages across one appointment. Thin layers of cancerous skin are progressively removed and examined in the lab until only cancer-free tissue remains.
While Mohs surgery generally results in minimal cosmetic defects, plastic surgery may be necessary after the removal, especially when the tumor is located in a highly visible area. Plastic surgery techniques, ranging from a simple scar revision to a complex skin graft can often restore patients to optimal appearance and function.
If you’re concerned about skin cancer, you should see a dermatologist. He or she can diagnose skin lesions, identify a treatment plan, and recommend surgical options if needed. Should surgery be recommended, you may want to consult with a plastic surgeon who has the surgical training necessary to achieve an optimal cosmetic result.
Frequently Asked Questions
A plastic surgeon can surgically remove growths to maintain function and provide the most pleasing final appearance, which is important for a growth in a highly visible area. If a treatment other than surgical excision is needed, the plastic surgeon can refer you to the appropriate specialist.
Patients who undergo Mohs surgery generally have either basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. Because the lesions of these skin cancers almost never spread to other parts of the body, neither needs to be removed all at once. This is important because, in certain parts of the body, a two to three stage excision spaced over several weeks can leave you with a much better scar than if the whole lesion is removed at once by a Mohs surgeon. Ask your plastic surgeon which approach might be better for you.