Mohs Surgery: Long-Term Care

Mohs surgery offers a highly effective solution to skin cancer. With high cure rates, this surgery is minimally invasive and very effective. Still, there are long-term considerations before you have your procedure, including lifestyle adjustments to prevent a return of skin cancer, and possible future procedures.

Using sun protection after Mohs surgery
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Benefits of Surgery

There are many treatments for skin cancer, from excising moles to freezing portions off. These methods can end with a return of the skin cancer, though, and Mohs surgery offers a solution that can be more permanent.

By examining each layer of skin removed under a microscope, your surgeon will keep removing layers of tissue until they are certain that all the cancerous cells have been removed. Additional areas of removal are minimal, too, with surgeons going just beyond the tumor borders—typically just 1 millimeter (mm) to 2 mm beyond the margins.

Possible Future Surgeries

While there is a good chance that Mohs surgery will rid you of skin cancer, there is still some long-term care involved after Mohs surgery.

First, there is reconstruction to consider. In most cases where the affected area is small, your surgeon may elect to close and reconstruct the wound during your initial procedure. These small wounds will be left to close naturally, through a process called secondary-intention healing.

For wounds that are larger, your surgeon may close them with a stitch, but they won't require extensive reconstructive surgery. The largest wounds, on the other hand, may need a more complex process.

For large wounds that can't heal on their own, even with the help of a few sutures, your surgeon may recommend the services of a reconstructive or plastic surgeon. These surgeons may decide to use a skin graft from another part of your body or a skin flap to close the wound and enable better healing.

Call your doctor or 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Even though you may feel relieved after your Mohs surgery, it's no time to become complacent. There is still a chance—even if it's a small one—that could cancer could return. Two out of five patients who have skin cancer once will develop it again within five years.

Early detection is key. You should remain vigilant with routine skin checks, as well as healthy skin care. Follow general recommendations to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer such as:

  • Staying out of the sun between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M.
  • Avoiding getting sunburned
  • Covering up with hats, UV-blocking clothes, and/or sunscreen when you have to be in the sun
  • Reapplying sunscreen if you stay in the sun longer than 30 minutes
  • Examining your own skin once per month
  • Seeing a dermatologist for a thorough skin assessment once each year

A Word From Verywell

Mohs surgery can effective. lt removes existing skin cancer, but there is not an immediate recovery after the procedure. Full recovery can take a year or longer, depending on your reconstruction needs. Even when you are recovered, you should consider lifestyle changes to help prevent a recurrence of skin cancer.

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Article Sources
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  1. Nehal K, Lee E. Mohs surgery. UpToDate. Updated March 26. 2020.

  2. American College of Mohs Surgery. Reconstruction. 2017.

  3. Skin Cancer Foundation. Skin cancer prevention.