You may have learned that a spot on your skin is cancerous, and you need to have it removed. If you’ve also learned that you need Mohs surgery, you may have questions about the procedure and how to prepare.
Dr. James Dinulos, one of our board-certified dermatologists with Seacoast Dermatology, performs Mohs surgery, and he has answers.
What is Mohs surgery?
Mohs is a particular type of surgical procedure used to treat some basal and squamous cell skin cancers. Doctors who perform Mohs surgery receive extensive advanced training.
During Mohs surgery, Dr. Dinulos excises thin layers of skin. He looks at the skin under a powerful microscope to determine if it has cancerous cells. If it does, he keeps removing skin and examining it until the skin under the microscope shows only healthy cells with no cancer.
Mohs preserves as much healthy skin as possible around the cancerous site. At the conclusion of the surgery, we’re able to assure you that all of the cancer cells have been removed and you’re cancer-free. Mohs has up to a 99% cure rate, and scarring is very minimal.
Dermatologists usually perform Mohs surgery on delicate areas of your body where your skin is thin and there’s not much tissue below the area with the cancer. Such areas include the eyelids, nose, ears, scalp, fingers, hands, and feet.
Mohs can also be performed on high-risk tumors, such as aggressive or large areas of basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas, in addition to delicate areas.
Four steps to prepare prepare for Mohs surgery
Mohs is outpatient surgery, so preparation is fairly simple. Following are four steps to help make the experience as uncomplicated as possible.
If you smoke or use tobacco products, stop before the surgery. Smoking retards healing and can lead to complications after any surgery.
Stop taking medications as directed
Include all medications, vitamins, herbs, and supplements on your medical history form. We let you know if you need to stop taking blood thinners in the days leading up to your surgery.
Medications can cause problems during surgery, so let us know about every supplement, over-the-counter, and prescription medication you take.
Eating and drinking
Although we may want you to refrain from eating and drinking immediately before surgery, you should be able to eat breakfast before your appointment. Mohs surgery uses local anesthesia, so you don’t have the same concerns as you would if you were being given general anesthesia.
Clear your schedule, dress comfortably, and bring a book
Because Dr. Dinulos needs to look at your skin samples under the microscope and return to continue the procedure as long as he finds cancer, you’ll have periods of waiting interspersed with periods when he is performing the surgery. Bring a tablet, a book, or music to occupy your time.
Clear your schedule for the rest of the day in case the procedure takes a few hours. Most Mohs surgeries take less than four hours, but some can last longer.
Wear comfortable clothing. Depending on where the skin cancer is, you may not need to change into a hospital gown.
If you need more information about Mohs surgery or would like to make an appointment, call our nearest Seacoast Dermatology office. We’re located in Portsmouth, Dover, and Exeter, New Hampshire.