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Mohs micrographic surgery can help treat skin cancer

Before undergoing Mohs micrographic surgery, also known as chemosurgery, there are some things you should know to prepare yourself. Mohs surgery is intended to help treat common types of skin cancer, including basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer, and can completely remove areas of skin cancer as long as a qualified surgeon is performing the surgery under optimal conditions. Here is some help before undergoing Mohs surgery.


Do continue taking all medications

Unless otherwise instructed by your doctor, you should keep taking the medications you are in, including continuing blood thinners such as aspirin, Coumadin, and Plavix. Most Mohs surgeons do not stop blood thinners except in rare cases when dealing with truly extraordinarily large tumors. Surgeons especially don’t like to stop blood thinners if they were prescribed for cardiac or central nervous system prophylaxis. The reason is that Mohs surgeons don’t want to risk precipitating a heart attack or stroke in patients because the blood thinners were stopped.

Do be certain of the location of the cancer and the type of cancer

Knowing the location of the cancer and your specific type of cancer makes it much easier for the Mohs surgeon, as often times biopsy sites tend to fade quickly and are difficult to spot. If you are unsure of this, call the doctor who you last spoke with, or the doctor that diagnosed you originally, and find out for sure the exact type of cancer and location. It may also be good to keep a copy of your medical record.

Do eat a good breakfast and consider bringing lunch

Mohs surgery is an outpatient procedure and does not require general anesthesia, so fasting is not necessary and is unhelpful. Eat a good breakfast and perhaps even bring lunch with you or have one of your loved one’s bring you lunch so that you aren’t hungry during the procedure. There is no sense in being unnecessarily uncomfortable.

Do bring a friend, or something to occupy your time

Mohs surgery is a very precise technique, but it can be painstaking and time consuming. As such, a companion is very helpful to assist in passing the time and in providing moral support. If you can’t find a friend to come with you and keep you company, consider taking a book with you to read while undergoing the procedure. Spending that much time in one place can get boring, plus it can help keep your mind occupied.

Do get a good night’s sleep before the surgery day

You want to feel as strong and well rested on the day of surgery as you can because this will make the day run smoother. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep the night before surgery.


Do not schedule important public events in the days after the surgery

This should be common sense, but many patients forget that they will exhibit some degree of swelling and drainage of slight blood at the surgical site after surgery. Consider rescheduling important events for a few days or even weeks after undergoing the procedure.

In the same light, don’t plan on visiting another doctor or having another appointment on the same day as when you undergo Mohs surgery. After surgery, you will want to go home and rest.

Do not forget to bring all pertinent medical information to the visit

This includes medication allergies (especially allergies to antibiotics), whether you have a pacemaker, pre-existing medical conditions, etc. Also don’t forget to provide the Mohs surgeon with accurate information as to how the lesion in question was treated in the past (if other treatments were rendered).

Do not plan to engage in swimming or vigorous exercise

For several days after surgery, don’t plan on exercising or swimming, as this may impeded wound healing. Light walks are ok, and can actually be beneficial, but depending on where on your body the surgery was performed, stay away from running, heavy lifting, swimming, and any activity that is strenuous in anyway. Ask your doctor if you have any questions about whether or not you are able to do something after surgery.

Do not smoke while the wound is healing

Smokers should realize that nicotine is a vasoconstrictor (i.e. it clamps down on blood vessels). This results in a worse blood supply to the surgical site, which in turn impedes optimal healing. Aside from the countless other ways that smoking hurts you, in order for the wound to heal efficiently and properly, you should quit smoking.

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Ensuring that you are ready for surgery also involves ensuring you are prepared for aftercare. Following your surgeon’s aftercare instructions is important so that you are able to heal properly within a reasonable amount of time. Heed this advice to help you eliminate skin cancer and regain your health.

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Dr. Michael ShapiroMedical Founder and Director

Dr. Michael Shapiro, M.D., FAAD, ACMS, is a board-certified New York Dermatologist and a Fellowship-Trained Mohs Skin Cancer Surgeon. He is the medical director of Vanguard Dermatology and an innovator in Mohs-micrographic Surgery, Laser, Aesthe...

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