Mohs micrographic surgery for nonmelanoma skin cancer
Mohs micrographic surgery involves removing a skin cancer one layer at a time and examining these layers under a microscope immediately after they are removed. This procedure allows for a close examination of each layer of skin to detect cancer cells. It also allows a minimal amount of tissue to be removed while ensuring complete removal of all the cancer cells.
A local anesthetic is injected into the skin before the surgery. Your doctor then begins to remove the skin cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue, one layer of skin at a time. Each tissue layer is prepared and examined under the microscope for cancer cells. Surgery is complete when no more cancer cells are detected.
Why It Is Done
Mohs micrographic surgery may be used for removal of skin cancer that:
- Is likely to return. Mohs micrographic surgery is more effective in obtaining cancer-free margins for cancers that have irregular borders and a history of removal and recurrence.
- Is located in visible areas or areas where skin tissue should be preserved, such as on the ears, nose, or eyelids.
- Is growing quickly.
- Has a high risk of spreading to other parts of the body, such as in some squamous cell carcinomas.
- Occurs in children.
How Well It Works
Mohs micrographic surgery can be an effective treatment for skin cancer. This technique preserves as much nearby healthy skin as possible. Treatment with Mohs surgery offers the highest rates of cure for patients with squamous cell carcinoma.1 Mohs surgery is also advised for certain skin cancers when the highest cure rate is needed while sparing as much healthy tissue as possible.2 Compared to standard excision treatments, recurrence is less after Mohs micrographic surgery.
What To Think About
Mohs micrographic surgery is the best procedure to preserve skin tissue surrounding the cancer. But it requires special training and equipment, and it is time-consuming and expensive.
- National Cancer Institute (2008). Skin Cancer (PDQ): Treatment. Health Professional Version. Available online: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/skin/healthprofessional/allpages.
- Grossman D, Leffell DJ (2008). Squamous cell carcinoma. In K Wolff et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1028–1036. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.
Last Updated: October 14, 2008