Answers to Questions About Mohs Surgery

Whether you have had Mohs surgery before or have been told you need to have it, it is natural to have questions. It is important to ask any questions you have about Mohs. Having an open, honest conversation with your treatment team can help you set the right expectations and goals.

To get started, make a list of any questions you have and bring the list to your next visit. It may help to bring someone with you, like a family member or friend, who can take notes or ask other questions. Below are common questions about Mohs surgery, and answers from actual dermatologists and Mohs surgeons.

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What is the goal of Mohs surgery?

The goal of Mohs surgery is to remove all of the skin cancer. To be more specific, the surgeon will want the skin around where the cancer used to be, called the margins, to be cancer-free. That is why you may hear your surgeon say that he or she wants to do as many stages or passes as are needed to “clear the margins”. Learn more about how well Mohs works to remove skin cancer.

Most Mohs surgeries will take a few hours. However, there is no way to know how long the surgery will take and how many stages you will need until the surgeon starts. It is best to plan to be at the surgeon’s office most of the day, if needed. See the steps of Mohs surgery.

Most people will need 1 to 3 Mohs surgeries, called stages, to remove all the skin cancer. There is no way to know how many stages will be needed to get all the cancer out until the surgeon starts. Download this guide to learn more about the steps of Mohs surgery.

Reconstructive and plastic surgery are often needed after Mohs surgery to fix scars and help the skin work the way it used to. About 1 out of 3 people who have Mohs will need reconstructive surgery. Talk with your doctor before surgery to learn how your wounds will be closed and what recovery may be like.

Mohs surgery will likely leave a scar that may take up to a year to heal. In fact, one study showed that 8 out of 10 people who had Mohs surgery ended up with a scar that was larger than they thought it would be. There is no way to know what your skin will look like after surgery until the surgeon removes all the cancer. Learn more about wounds and scars from Mohs surgery and what you can do to help yourself have the best results.

You will see your Mohs surgeon while your wound and scar from Mohs surgery heal. This may take up to a year. Your dermatologist is an important part of your treatment team. He or she can do your regular skin checks to find any new cancers and treat any other skin problems you may have. Be sure to talk honestly with both your Mohs surgeon and your dermatologist to get the right care for you.

If you get basal or squamous cell cancer again in the same or different place, you may be able to have Mohs surgery again. You can also choose to have a different skin cancer treatment. That choice is up to you and your doctor. Download this guide for talking with your doctor about your skin cancer treatment options.

Learn about other treatment options for common skin cancers.

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