After being diagnosed with skin cancer, finding the right treatment is crucial. While there have been many advances in skin cancer treatments over the years, many doctors still rely on Mohs surgery. Developed in the 1930s by Frederick Mohs, the goal of this procedure is to remove as much cancerous tissue as possible without disturbing the surrounding healthy tissues.
As a result, it’s a common treatment for cancers that affect the faced, including squamous and basal cell carcinoma. However, this procedure can be used on other types of skin cancer at your doctor’s discretion, and in many cases it affords the patient successful results.
Here at Summit OMS, we understand how emotionally complex a cancer diagnosis can be. That’s why we take the time to explain treatment options to our patients, so you can play an active role in your cancer recovery.
We’ve compiled this guide to go over a few of the basics of the Mohs treatment. The more you understand about this procedure, including who is a good candidate for it and what to expect in terms of aftercare, the more informed your decision will be. When patients are empowered to make the right choices about their healthcare, they often feel more in control during the experience.
What is Mohs Surgery
Removal tumors and surrounding cancerous tissue is a common treatment for many types of cancers. While this can be an effective way to address cancer, it’s difficult to perform on certain areas of the body, such as the face. The removal of too much tissue can alter the appearance of the face, sometimes drastically. Patients with an altered physical appearance have a harder time coping with their recovery, as they may experience additional emotional effects.
Conversely, Mohs micrographic surgery only requires removal of small layers of the skin, each of which is diligently tested for cancerous cells before the procedure progresses. The procedure will continue until no cancerous cells are detected, which serves two very important purposes. First, the patient’s appearance won’t be as affected as it would with a traditional cancer treatment. That means a shortened recovery period, as the patient may not need additional cosmetic surgery to restore their appearnce. Second, patients with aggressive cancers can rest assured that all cancerous tissue has been removed, which is an important part of preventing a recurrence.
Mohs Surgery on Nose
Basal cell carcinoma is a very common form of skin cancer that can be triggered by excessive sun exposure. A majority of basal cell carcinoma cases are found on the nose, which poses challenges to surgeons. In addition to preserving the appearance of the patient, doctors must also be concerned with the structures of the nose itself. Surgical procedures must be conducted carefully to prevent breathing problems and other issues.
When it comes to basal cell carcinoma of the nose, Mohs procedures are considered the best possible course of action. Its minimal impact on the appearance of the nose aids patients in their recovery by alleviating concerns about aesthetic appearance. And because it’s possible to remove all or most cancerous tissue from the nose using this procedure, it provides reassurance that the cancer will not return.
Mohs Surgery for Melanoma
Melanomas are another type of skin cancer that are also linked to excess sun exposure. Unlike basal cell carcinoma, melanoma is considered more serious. While a melanoma can develop anywhere on the body, even on the soles of your feet, they’re most common in areas that receive a lot of exposure to the sun. This includes the back, arms, and face.
There are a few different treatments doctors can use when addressing melanoma. With wide excision, the skin cancer and surrounding tissue (known as the margin) is removed. When the cancer is located near a lymph node, the lymph node may also be dissected and removed. If the tumor has metastasized, or spread to other areas of the body, treatments like radiation or chemotherapy will be recommended in addition to skin cancer.
Mohs surgery may also be used to treat melanoma, although it’s a less common treatment for this type of cancer. Mohs for melanoma may be recommended if the cancer has not metastasized and is on an area of the face where wide excision may prove problematic. Your doctor will consider many factors, including past recurrences of cancer and medical background, when deciding whether Mohs is the right option for you.
Mohs Surgery Recovery
The Mohs surgery recovery period is usually tolerated well by most patients. Many people return to normal activities, such as going to work or school, the day after the surgery. Stitches are removed from four days to two weeks after the procedure has taken place, depending on the size of the treatment area and how many sutures were needed. A majority of patients report no pain or discomfort after their procedures.
Once the stitches have been removed the surgical site has completely healed, your doctor will recommend follow-up exams to check for cancer recurrence. In general, most patients are asked to undergo an exam once or twice per year. If your treatment was for a more aggressive form of cancer, such as melanoma, you may be asked to undergo follow-up exams on a more frequent basis.
Mohs Surgery Aftercare
Proper wound care is a must after the procedure, especially if your treatment area was substantial. In this case, follow the instructions provided your doctor to ensure the surgical site heals appropriately. In most cases, your doctor will ask you to keep the surgical site dry for at least 24 hours, meaning no baths or swimming. You may also be asked to clean the wound two to three times per day. When cleaning the surgical site, use mild soap or hydrogen peroxide to keep the area clean and free of infection.
Swelling can also occur after surgery. Applying an ice pack to the swollen area helps reduce inflammation and discomfort. Apply the ice pack for no longer than 15 minutes per hour for the first day after your procedure. You may also take an over the counter pain medication to control discomfort. Most patients can control their pain using these medications, but inform your doctor if your pain is severe and can’t be controlled by over the counter painkillers. You may require prescription pain medication or there may be complications with the surgery, such as infection, that require treatment.
While you can most likely resume normal activity soon after Mohs surgery, be careful about performing rigorous activities. Heavy lifting, exercise, and other strenuous activities can actually worsen bleeding and swelling in the surgical site, so it’s best to take it easy until your doctor gives you the all clear. If you have questions about a specific activity and whether it’s appropriate, be sure to ask your doctor first.
Exceptional Care at Summit OMS
Summit OMS offers a wide range of medical treatments and procedures. In addition to Mohs surgery, our skilled surgeons also provide cleft lip treatment, palate modification, nose reconstruction, and more. Before recommending a treatment, we’ll get to know you and your medical background, so we can offer the best possible procedure for your needs. We also make sure our patients leave our office fully aware of recovery and aftercare methods, which ensures a fast and comfortable recovery.