Mohs Surgery: Patient Care Tips

Your dermatologist has recommended Mohs micrographic surgery to treat your skin cancer. This tip sheet will provide you with information about what to expect before, during and after your surgery.

It is important to know that your dermatologist may also be your Mohs surgeon. Dermatologists who receive advanced training in Mohs surgery and wound reconstruction are also Mohs surgeons.

Mohs Surgery on the hand
Mohs Surgery on the hand

MOHS SURGERY FOR SKIN CANCER

Mohs surgery is a specialized type of surgical removal of skin cancer that is performed under local anesthesia. A Mohs surgeon removes the visible skin cancer layer by layer, and reviews each piece under a microscope to ensure that all the cancer cells have been removed. If any cancer cells remain, the Mohs surgeon will remove additional skin until cancer cells are no longer seen under the microscope. When appropriate, Mohs surgery is an excellent skin cancer treatment that removes the cancer in its entirety, while removing the least amount of healthy skin.

WHAT TO EXPECT BEFORE MOHS SURGERY

In addition to answering your questions, your Mohs surgeon will tell you:

  • Why Mohs surgery is right for your type of skin
  • Where your Mohs surgery will take place - either in the dermatologist’s office or at an outpatient surgical
  • Instructions about eating and drinking before
  • Take your regularly prescribed medications unless otherwise
    • If you have any questions regarding stopping/continuing any blood thinning medications, please discuss with your Mohs
  • Whether or not you need to stop smoking or drinking alcohol before and after
  • Whether a friend or family member needs to accompany you to your
  • How to care for your skin after

WHAT TO EXPECT DURING MOHS SURGERY

  • Mohs surgery can usually be completed within a day or
  • You are given a local anesthetic to numb the surgical area, so you remain awake during Mohs
    • Local anesthesia reduces recovery time and has fewer side
    • You may also be given a mild sedative or additional pain reliever to make you feel more
  • Once the anesthesia has taken effect, the Mohs surgeon removes the visible skin
    • The tissue that is removed is examined under a microscope by the Mohs
    • You remain in the surgical suite or
    • If there are any cancer cells remaining when reviewed under the microscope, the Mohs surgeon will return to remove an additional layer of
    • The Mohs surgeon will repeat these steps until cancer cells are no longer seen under the
  • Once cancer cells are no longer seen under the microscope, your Mohs surgeon will discuss your options for healing. Optimal healing may require
    • If the surgery was extensive and likely to leave a scar in a visible location, such as on your face or near your eye, your Mohs surgeon may discuss reconstructive surgical
    • This reconstruction can be done on the same day or your Mohs surgeon may refer you to another medical

WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER MOHS SURGERY

Following your Mohs surgery, your Mohs surgeon will mostly likely ask you to:

  • Leave the bandage on your wound for at least the first 24
    • Minimal bleeding is expected. You may see blood at the edge of your
    • If you notice that blood is seeping through your bandage and it does not subside with constant firm pressure

(applied consistently for at least 20 minutes), contact your Mohs surgeon or go to the emergency room.

  • Monitor your pain. Pain from Mohs surgery is usually minimal. If you experience stronger pain, contact your Mohs surgeon for pain medication
  • Apply an ice pack to the bandage and surrounding skin several times a day for the first 1-2 days after
  • Remove the original bandage on your wound when instructed to do
    • Wash the wound with soap and
    • Pat the wound dry and apply a layer of petroleum jelly to the
    • Apply a new bandage. Your Mohs surgeon may have provided you with special bandages or recommended a certain type of
  • Keep your follow-up appointment with your Mohs

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology.
Copyright © by the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides

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