This article originally appeared in Connections, a magazine
published for physicians and the community by UMass Memorial Medical
With its very high cure rate of 96 to 99 percent, Mohs surgery is the most
effective treatment for common skin cancers, including basal and squamous cell
carcinoma. It is frequently used for cancers in cosmetically sensitive areas
such as the face, neck and scalp, and for aggressive tumors.
Mohs surgery is performed in stages. The tumor is removed initially with a
thin rim of normal skin. Next, the specimen is processed in the lab and the
edges are checked microscopically by the surgeon to ensure all cancerous cells
It takes about 20 to 40 minutes to process the tissue for each stage. "The
average tumor requires two to four stages to remove. We take as little normal
tissue and leave the smallest scar possible," said Mary Maloney, MD, chief of
dermatology and director of dermatologic surgery at UMass Memorial Medical
Mohs surgeons are also trained in facial reconstruction and discuss with
patients repair options depending on wound size, shape and location. In most
cases, the skin is repaired the day of the surgery using stitches. Some cases
require a skin graft or flap to provide the best results.
"Patients are pleasantly surprised by their Mohs surgery experiences," said
David Geist, MD, assistant professor of surgery. "They can sit up and take a
break between stages. After leaving our clinic, patients do not lose sleep
wondering what their test results and prognosis will be."
James Fallon, a longtime Mohs surgery patient, said, "The Mohs surgery team
members take the time to get to know their patients. They are like a second
family to me."