Dermatology

Adjust Font Size
Mohs Surgery

Mohs micrographic surgery, which is used to treat aggressive or recurrent skin cancers, is effective for most types of skin cancer.

What is Mohs Surgery?

This unique form of surgery for the removal of skin tumors was developed more than 50 years ago by Frederick Mohs, MD, a professor at the University of Wisconsin. Since then, the technique has been refined and advanced. It offers a cure rate of about 99 percent for certain kinds of skin cancer.

Who performs Mohs Surgery?

At the Watertown practice of Harvard Vanguard, Mohs surgery is performed by a specially trained team that includes a surgeon, nurses, medical assistants and a technician who prepares the tissue for microscopic examination. Your surgeon is trained to remove the skin cancer, read the pathology, and perform the cosmetic repair. You will meet the entire team at the time of your consultation or surgery. Mohs surgery is offered at Watertown:

485 Arsenal Street
Watertown, MA
617-972-5111

Which patients are candidates for Mohs surgery?

  • Patients with skin cancer confirmed by a biopsy
  • Patients whose cancer is located on the head or neck
  • Patients with recurrent cancer at any site
  • Patients who have had the surgery recommended to them by a dermatologist

How is Mohs surgery performed?

Mohs surgery is performed on an outpatient basis. First, local anesthesia is used to numb the tumor site. Then, as much of the visible tumor as possible is removed with a special instrument. A thin layer of skin at the tumor site is then examined. If evidence of tumor cells is found at the edges of the sample, the doctor will remove and examine another skin sample. These steps will be repeated until no tumor can be detected under a microscope.

Although the actual surgery involved in each sampling takes only 20 minutes, the entire process may take more than an hour per sample. As we cannot determine ahead of time how many samples/states you will require, be prepared to spend the entire day with us. It very rarely takes more than one day to remove a tumor.

What are the advantages of Mohs surgery?

By tracking the tumor-removal process microscopically, we can better ensure that the entire tumor is removed while simultaneously preserving the maximum amount of the surrounding healthy skin. This is important if the cancer is close to a prominent feature, especially on the face. Although any surgical procedure will leave a scar, the dermatologist strives to achieve the best possible cosmetic result with the Mohs procedure.

Mohs Surgery

For more information on whether Mohs surgery is appropriate for you, please consult your dermatologist or primary care physician. A biopsy confirming the presence of skin cancer must be performed before Mohs surgery would be considered.

If Mohs surgery is recommended, you will meet with our Mohs surgery team for a pre-surgery consultation. During your consultation with the Mohs team, there will be time to answer your questions. We will provide detailed instructions for you to prepare for your surgery, what to expect on the day of surgery, and a discussion of possible side effects and complications to monitor after surgery.

Most insurance policies will cover the costs of Mohs surgery and the surgical reconstruction of the wound. Please check with your insurance carrier for exact information relating to coverage for your surgery.