Mohs surgery is one of the most effective treatment options for multiple skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. However, the procedure may seem daunting at first glance, as it involves removing cancerous cells layer by layer. Some patients shy away from Mohs surgery out of fear of the pain they may experience. To ease these concerns, Dermatology Associates provides an overview of the surgical process and details how doctors help mitigate discomfort from the procedure.
How Does Mohs Surgery Work?
During Mohs surgery, the surgeon seeks to remove as much skin cancer as they can without causing significant damage to the surrounding healthy skin. It is conducted in stages, with the doctor examining the cells after each stage to see if the patient still has cancer. This approach raises the likelihood of being cured and decreases the need for further treatments.
When patients come in for Mohs surgery, the nurse will prepare them for the procedure by cleaning the affected area and injecting a local anesthetic. Local anesthesia numbs a small portion of the body to dull the painful effects of the surgery. While a person may experience some pressure under a local anesthetic, their discomfort will be substantially lower than with no medicine. The nurse will also outline the cancerous area with a medical pen to facilitate the surgery.
After the anesthetic numbs the area, the surgeon performs the first stage, using a scalpel or similar tool to remove the visible layer of skin and a thin layer underneath. The doctor then bandages the area and takes the sample to the lab for testing. During this time, the patient waits for results.
If the cancer is gone, the patient does not need to undergo more incisions. If cancer remains, the surgeon will continue the procedure and test the samples until the cancer is not present. Subsequent cuttings tend to be easier since the surgeon knows better where to cut after each stage. The nurse can administer additional shots of local anesthetic as necessary.
Managing Pain after Mohs Surgery
Mohs surgery occurs on an outpatient basis and typically lasts for only a few hours. Once the procedure is complete, the doctor will determine the best healing option for the particular patient. In some cases, the surgeon will use stitches or move skin from another area of the body to cover the wound. In other instances, letting the cut heal on its own is the best course of action.
Most care teams, like the one at Dermatology Associates, will educate people on how to care for their skin following Mohs surgery. This instruction includes tips for reducing infections and strategies for easing pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers and cold compresses are ideal for alleviating discomfort, but getting adequate rest is also vital to recovery.
Bruising and swelling are common aftereffects of Mohs surgery, but tend to disappear quickly. Other more rare complications of the procedure include a weak sensation around the affected area, shooting pain, itching, magnified scarring, and temporary or permanent numbness. Patients experiencing these symptoms should reach out to their doctors for assistance.
It can take four to six weeks for the wound for Mohs surgery to heal, depending on how much skin the surgeon had to cut to remove the cancer. Generally, the dermatologist will schedule follow-up appointments with the patient to track their recovery and search for signs cancer may return. How many follow-ups a patient has depends on their specific diagnosis. One to two visits is standard, but a person with an aggressive form of cancer may need to see the doctor more often.
Choose Mohs Surgery at Dermatology Associates
Patients throughout Central New York turn to Dermatology Associates for expertise in Mohs surgery. Amin Fazeli, M.D., Ph.D., FAAD, and FACMS, learned to conduct this procedure in a Mohs micrographic surgery and cutaneous oncology fellowship and has performed thousands of surgeries since then.
Besides offering comprehensive skin care services, the providers at Dermatology Associates also act as compassionate advocates, educating patients on their conditions and supporting them through each phase of their treatment. Contact the office today to learn more about Mohs surgery and other skin cancer treatment options.