Mohs Micrographic Surgery: The Gold Standard for Skin Cancer Treatment

Lots of thoughts run through your head when you get any cancer diagnosis. It’s only natural. Once you process your diagnosis, it’s important to communicate your concerns, goals and expectations with your treating physician. In the case of skin cancer, your treating physician is usually a dermatologist. These highly trained doctors are skilled in evaluating what kind of skin cancer you have (it’s not all the same), the stage of the cancer, and the best way to treat it.

Expectations of Skin Cancer Treatment

When you have skin cancer, the highest priority is to get rid of the cancer. If left untreated or insufficiently treated, it can spread and cause many more complications and problems. However, many skin cancers, when caught early, have an excellent cure rate.

Having your skin examined regularly, especially moles and other skin abnormalities, by a board-certified dermatologist is a critical step in early detection and treatment of skin cancer.

Another high priority for dermatologists like Dr. Megan Morrison at Harpeth Valley Dermatology is maintaining as much healthy tissue as possible and minimizing the cosmetic effect on the patient. Many patients in the Middle Tennessee area choose Dr. Morrison for this procedure, as she is an accomplished, skilled and compassionate provider who is well-versed in a treatment known as Mohs surgery or Mohs micrographic surgery.

What Is Mohs Surgery?

Mohs surgery, named for Frederic E. Mohs, the surgeon who developed this revolutionary technique in the 1930s, is remarkable for preserving healthy skin and excising skin cancer. The procedure has a 99% cure rate for first-time treatments and a 94% cure rate for skin cancer that has been previously treated. It also results in minimal cosmetic changes because of how it is performed. This is particularly important when treating areas of the body that have very thin layers of skin, such as eyelids, ears and hands.

What makes this surgery, and its surgeons, so unique? Unlike many cancer treatment surgeries, the cancerous tissue is processed during the surgery. The surgeon is specially trained to perform three precise roles during the procedure:

  • Surgically remove the cancer
  • Act as a Pathologist and evaluate the margins of the removed skin
  • Close up and possibly reconstruct the wounds for best cosmetic results

What Happens During Mohs Surgery?

If you have a diagnosis of basal or squamous cell carcinoma, the two most common forms of skin cancer, your doctor will discuss treatment options. If it is determined that Mohs surgery is the best treatment option to give you the best possible outcome, you’ll schedule your procedure, usually outpatient.

For most procedures, the anesthesia will be localized to the area of the body being treated, meaning you’ll be awake for it. Most patients have a much better experience when they do not have to go under general anesthesia.

The area will be numbed, the physician will remove the visible cancer and then lightly bandage your wound for your comfort. Then she or he will examine the removed tissue under the microscope. If the margins are clear (no cancer around the edges), they will close you up and send you home. If there is not a clean margin (still some cancer cells lurking), they will go back and remove another very thin layer. This process is repeated until the margins are clear.

By performing surgery this way, no more tissue than necessary is removed, clean margins are achieved during the initial surgery, and scarring is minimized. Recurrences or a need for repeated surgeries is also significantly lower when compared to other surgical methods.

Reach Out to See If You’re a Candidate for Mohs Surgery

If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer or have an area you suspect could be, contact Harpeth Valley Dermatology to schedule an appointment. Meet with one of our board-certified dermatologists to see if Mohs surgery is the proper treatment for you.

If you have a concern about skin cancer or want to schedule your annual skin check, reach out to Harpeth Valley Dermatology at 615-905-8083 or

Have a question for Harpeth Valley Dermatology? Fill out the form below:

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