Frequent Asked Questions about Mohs Micrographic Surgery
1. What does Mohs stand for?
2. Why did I get skin cancer?
3. Will my Mohs surgery occur in a hospital and will I have anesthesia for this surgery?
4. Will my skin cancer metastasize (spread to other places in the body)?
The risk of metastasis depends on the kind of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma accounts for approximately 80% of skin cancers diagnosed today. Along with being the most common skin cancer, it is also the most treatable. The risk of metastasis for basal cell carcinoma is very close to 0% but basal cell carcinomas can cause extensive local tissue damage so it is vitally important to treat these skin cancers as early as possible to minimize the amount of this tissue damage.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer today. When considering all squamous cell carcinomas, the majority of these skin cancers do not metastasize and, like basal cell carcinomas, cause only local tissue damage. But a small minority (5% or less) of squamous cell carcinomas can metastasize, especially if they are located in high-risk areas like the ears, lips, and genitalia. Because of this fact, squamous cell carcinomas are thought to be more aggressive than basal cell carcinomas and the earlier they are treated, the better the outcome for patients.
The third common type of skin cancer is malignant melanoma. While some early, superficial melanomas (lentigo maligna) are treated with a modification of the Mohs procedure, most malignant melanomas are treated with wide local excision with the addition of other procedures depending on the depth of the skin cancer. Please see a further discussion of melanoma in Skin Cancer Info.
5. What kind of skin cancers can be treated with Mohs surgery?
The most common type of skin cancers treated with Mohs surgery includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Some early, superficial types of melanoma (lentigo maligna) are treated with a modification of the Mohs surgery technique. Also, some more rare types of skin cancer and some aggressive benign growths are also treated with the Mohs surgery technique.
6. Can I continue my medications prior to my surgery?
Please have a detailed list of your prescription and non-prescription medications that you take ready to give our staff when you call to make an appointment. Most prescription medicines are continued during surgery but it is important to notify us of any blood thinners you are taking prior to surgery so Dr. Lane may tailor his recommendations to your specific case. If you take coumadin or warfarin, it is important that you arrange to have a PT/INR blood test within 2 weeks prior to surgery. Please fax this result to 803-329-0688.
Some non-prescription and herbal medicines also have blood-thinning capacity. Some of these include:
- Vitamin E/Multivitamins
- Fish oil/Omega-3 fatty acid
- Glucosamine chondroitin
Because of this, it is important that you notify us of any other non-prescription/herbal medicines that you take and we will advise you on whether or not to continue these medications based on your specific medical situation.
7. Do I need to take antibiotics prior to my Mohs surgery?
While this is a controversial topic and constantly evolving, we typically prescribe preoperative antibiotics for patients that have been told to take antibiotics prior to dental work or other procedures. This is especially important for patients with a history of a joint replacement in the last 5 years, patients with artificial heart valves, and patients with a history of certain types of heart murmurs or history of rheumatic heart disease. It is typically not necessary for patients with pacemakers, implanted defibrillators, or implanted screws/plates to take antibiotics prior to Mohs surgery. It is very important to discuss with Dr. Lane and his staff any medical conditions you may have prior to surgery so we may tailor our treatment to your specific medical situation.
8. Will I have stitches after my surgery?
Dr. Lane, Dr. Olson or Dr. Jenkins will have a detailed discussion with you after the skin cancer is removed about the different options available for treatment of the wound that remains after Mohs surgery. These include letting it heal on its own (secondary intention), putting stitches in the wound, or referral to another physician for more extensive reconstruction. For the vast majority of wounds, closure with stitches offers the quickest healing time and produces the best cosmetic result but Dr. Lane, Dr. Olson or Dr. Jenkins will tailor treatment to each patient individually.
9. Will I have any limitations after surgery?
It will be very important that patients do not engage in any strenuous activity for a period of time after the procedure. Any activity that raises the blood pressure or requires exertion can have a negative effect on the healing wound and predispose wounds to re-opening or poor healing. Dr. Lane, Dr. Olson or Dr. Jenkins will discuss with you the length of time to avoid activity based on your specific situation.
10. How do I take care of the wound after my surgery?
11. How can I prevent future skin cancers and how do I know it when I have one?
Since skin cancers are a direct result of ultraviolet rays from sunlight, proper protection from these rays is essential for prevention of further skin cancers. Please see Skin Cancer Info for more information.
Most skin cancers (basal cell carcinoma/squamous cell carcinoma) are noticed as a new growing lesion that occasionally bleeds and never completely heals. Although this is a typical presentation of skin cancer, they can present in a variety of ways and any new lesion that continues to grow and causes any symptoms or bleeds should be evaluated by a trained professional.
Once you have one skin cancer, you have an elevated risk of developing more skin cancers. Because of this, it will be important for you to continue to follow up with your general dermatologist for regular skin cancer screenings (typically every 6 months for 2 years after having a skin cancer).
For a further discussion of protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays and the development of skin cancer, please see the Skin Cancer Info section. Please also see the Links tab to visit national skin cancer and dermatology websites to obtain more information.