What You Need to Know About Mohs: A Mohs Micrographic Surgery Overview

What Is Mohs Surgery?

Mohs Micrographic Surgery is a highly specialized form of skin cancer surgery with the highest reported cure rate for selected skin cancers. It was initially developed in the 1930s by Fredrick Mohs, a physician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While studying the procedure with Dr. Mohs in the mid-1960s, Dr. Perry Robins recognized its potential as a way to treat skin cancers. Bringing the technique back to NYU, he established the first fellowship program for dermatologists to learn this technique. Mohs Micrographic Surgery has been refined over the years into the most innovative, precise, and effective treatment for a growing variety of skin cancer types.

Dr. Peter Ehrnstrom performed the first Mohs surgery procedure ever in Alaska in 1994. With the Mohs technique, Dr. Ehrnstrom can precisely identify and remove an entire cancerous tumor while maximizing the preservation of healthy tissue. The Mohs procedure involves surgically removing skin cancer layer by layer and examining the tissue under a microscope at our on-site CLIA-certified laboratory. This procedure is done until healthy, cancer-free tissue around the tumor is reached. This standard is known as “clear margins”. Since the surgeon is specially trained as a cancer surgeon, pathologist, and reconstructive surgeon, Mohs Surgery has the highest success rate of all treatments for skin cancer, up to 99%, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation.

Is Mohs Surgery Effective?

Mohs Surgery is unique and effective because of the way the removed tissue is microscopically examined, evaluating 100% of the surgical margins. Other skin cancer treatment methods blindly estimate the amount of tissue to treat, which can result in the unnecessary removal of healthy skin tissue and tumor regrowth if any cancer is missed. The tissue margins are interpreted pathologically by the Mohs surgeon on-site, who has been specially trained in the reading of these slides and is the best person to correlate any findings under a microscope with the surgical site on the patient. Meaning, the surgeon actually looks at the tissue underneath the microscope himself or herself.

What Are the Advantages of Mohs Surgery?

There are several advantages of Mohs Surgery. First, it ensures complete cancer removal, practically eliminating the chance of cancer growing back. It minimizes the amount of healthy tissue lost (also known as “tissue sparing”). It maximizes the functional and cosmetic outcomes. Moreover, the site of the cancer is usually repaired the same day the cancer is removed. Lastly, Mohs Surgery can cure skin cancer when other methods have failed. This procedure has grown in popularity over the past 15 years because it has a 99% cure rate for cancers that haven’t been treated before and a 94% success rate for skin cancers that recur after previous treatment.

Mohs Surgery is cost-effective. With Mohs Surgery’s high cure rate, most patients require only a single surgery, which usually includes the repair of the wound. Other methods might require additional surgeries and pathology readings in order to repair the wound and to treat the cancer if it is not completely removed. Each of these additional surgeries and pathology readings requires separate fees, while a single Mohs Surgery procedure includes all of these in one fee. Since Mohs Surgery minimizes the amount of healthy tissue removed, it also reduces the impact on the surrounding area. The aesthetic outcome of the surgery is optimized. In addition to reducing the risk of recurrence, Mohs Surgery also reduces and sometimes eliminates the costs of more complex, major skin cancer surgeries.

Dr. Ehrnstrom is a highly trained Mohs Surgeon and Board-Certified Dermatologist. He performs Mohs Surgery at our state-of-the-art facility in Anchorage, Alaska. If Mohs Surgery has been recommended for you please contact us to schedule an appointment at 907.646.8500.