What to Expect When You’re Scheduled for Mohs Surgery

When dermatologists identify skin cancer during an exam, Mohs surgery is often recommended to remove the affected tissue. This procedure is extremely effective and offers success rates up to 99%. If Dr. Amin Fazeli, M.D. Ph.D., FAAD, FACMS or one of the other physicians at Dermatology of Associates of Central New York in Fayetteville has suggested Mohs surgery for your skin cancer, this overview will explain everything you need to know about preparing for your procedure, the day of surgery, and aftercare.

Before Your Mohs Surgery

Mohs surgery is most often used to treat basal and squamous cell skin cancers and some melanomas. The procedure is preferred for skin cancer removal on the face and ears because it leaves minimal scarring. You can feel confident in the success of Mohs surgery, as well as its minimal impact on your appearance.

Before surgery, your dermatologist will review your medical history and any medications you take. Some patients will be advised to continue medications, while others may need to pause them. In general, most patients should avoid the following for at least one week before Mohs surgery:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

You should also abstain from the following for one to two weeks:

  • Vitamin E supplements
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol

Mohs surgery is an outpatient procedure but may take up to eight hours or longer in complex cases. Because of this, you should schedule a full day off from work if necessary and bring something to pass the time, such as your phone, a book, or a tablet.

On the Day of Your Mohs Surgery

Plan to arrive shortly before your procedure to avoid any delays. Your skin must be clean and free of makeup to avoid contamination. Because you’ll be given a local anesthetic to prevent discomfort, ask a family member or friend for a ride to and from your procedure.

Many patients feel nervous before Mohs surgery, which is perfectly understandable. However, you should not feel any discomfort after the anesthetic, and most people report feeling only light pressure. Before the surgery begins, your skin will be sanitized, and the cancerous area will be outlined with a medical-grade pen to guide the surgeon’s work.

During the Surgery

Your surgeon will use a special tool to remove the top-most layer of cancerous tissue, as well as a thin layer of tissue beneath it. To preserve healthy tissue and reduce scarring, the area removed will be only slightly larger than the cancer itself. Each layer of tissue removed is called a stage – this first layer is stage one.

Once stage one is removed, a temporary bandage will be applied to the cancerous site, and the tissue will be taken to an on-site laboratory. There, a pathologist will prepare it for examination under a microscope. While the removal of tissue is quick, analysis may take up to two hours.

Stages will be removed and analyzed until the tissue is free from cancer. Once the surgeon is satisfied that the cancer has been excised, the wound will be reconstructed, and you will be sent home with detailed aftercare instructions.

Mohs Surgery Aftercare

Patients should take it easy for up to 48 hours and follow their aftercare instructions to the letter. Keeping your surgical site clean is extremely important. You may experience some minor swelling and bruising, but this should pass quickly. Any discomfort can be treated with cold compresses and OTC pain relievers.

Stitches are typically removed after one to two weeks. As you heal, your doctor will schedule regular appointments to monitor your progress. This allows him to ensure the surgical site heals properly and identify any recurrence of cancerous cells, although this is unlikely.

Learn More about Mohs Surgery

Dermatology Associates of Central New York is one of the area’s only providers of Mohs surgery, and Dr. Fazeli has undergone fellowship training and performed more than 4,000 Mohs procedures. If you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer or are experiencing its symptoms, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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