The statistics regarding skin cancer diagnoses can be quite upsetting. While some believe that skin cancer only affects those in sunny states who forget to wear sunscreen, it’s much more common than you think. In fact, one in five Americans will experience some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. With these kinds of numbers, it’s never too early to start researching skin cancer prevention and skin cancer treatments.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with a form of skin cancer, it’s important to explore all of the different avenues you can take to treat it. One of the most popular avenues is Mohs surgery. Below we explain what Mohs surgery for skin cancer is and how a dermatologist in La Jolla, CA, can help you decide if it’s right for you.

What Is Mohs surgery? 

Mohs surgery is the process of going through the skin cancer tumor with a very thin scalpel and separating it layer by layer. When a piece of the tumor is removed, the doctor and lab technician then examine it to see if there are visible roots of the cancer. If your dermatologist finds these roots of the skin cancer, they’ll continue to dig until the cancer is completely gone.

Because they examine each part of the tumor, piece by piece and layer by layer, they’re able to spare the tissues around the tumor and target certain areas. This surgery was named after Frederic Mohs from the University of Wisconsin. He discovered the treatment in the early 1930s, and the surgical process has continued to grow and progress as time goes on. With today’s technology, dermatologists have the advanced tools to complete the surgery with extreme precision.

How Long Does It Take? 

It’s common for a Mohs surgery to last a few hours. This is because, after a layer of the tumor is removed, you’ll have to wait for the surgeon to examine it, which can take up to an hour. If the surgeon sees multiple roots still visible in the tumor, then you’ll have to go back in to have another layer removed. This process will continue until there are no visible roots remaining. The entire surgery will depend on how severe the tumor is, and how deep the cancer has spread.

Mole being removed

Is It Painful? 

Mohs surgery is often compared to having a biopsy. While it can be described as slightly uncomfortable by most patients, it’s not painful. Your dermatologist will give you local anesthesia to numb the area that needs to be removed. Besides the discomfort from the needle, and a little bit of pressure while the surgeon removes a layer, you don’t feel much of the surgery.

It is common to experience some soreness around the area after the anesthetic wears off. It’s important to avoid taking anything that can increase bleeding, such as aspirin or naproxen. Doctors will normally recommend taking extra-strength Tylenol to help ease the pain.

Remember that your dermatologist is there to answer any questions and address any concerns about pain. If you’d like to learn more about Mohs surgery, contact a specialist at Academic & Aesthetic Dermatology Consultants today.