Frequently Asked Questions


What is basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. It usually appears on sun-exposed areas as a blemish that will not heal or a persistent, pearly, shiny bump. The area may bleed with minor trauma. There are several other presentations including one that appears like a red, rough patch. Sometimes, they are mistaken for pimples, cysts, or rashes. Basal cell carcinoma almost never spreads to the lymph nodes or internal organs, except under rare circumstances. However, it can invade and destroy the immediately surrounding tissue and cause deformity if left unchecked.

What is squamous cell carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. It also commonly arises on areas that are chronically exposed to the sun, such as the face, scalp, neck, upper back, and arms. It often appears as a hard, scaly bump or scaling patch and may be mistaken for a wart or patch of dry skin. Squamous cell carcinoma can occasionally spread into the lymph nodes and internal organs. This occurs more often with large, aggressive squamous cell carcinomas or rapidly-growing tumors on the ears, scalp, lips or genitalia.

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is the deadliest of the common forms of skin cancer but has an excellent prognosis if it is caught early. Though melanoma may occur anywhere on your skin, it is found most often on the legs of women or the backs of men. This type of skin cancer often occurs in moles. It is usually a brown to black lesion which is not uniform in border, color or surface. Melanomas on chronically sun-damaged skin like the face may appear like a brown patch or freckle with irregular color.

Will my cancer come back (recur)?

The goal of Mohs surgery is to remove your skin cancer while preserving your normal healthy surrounding skin. The cure rate for Mohs micrographic surgery is very high, even for the most difficult tumors. The cure rate is up to 99% for new skin cancers and 95% for recurrent skin cancers (those which have been treated in the past and have come back.) While no method can guarantee a cure 100% of the time, appropriately and correctly performed Mohs surgery provides the highest possible cure rate for most tumors.

Will I develop more skin cancers?

Studies have shown that once you develop a skin cancer, there is an increased risk of developing others in the years ahead. For this reason, it is important for you to continue seeing your general dermatologist regularly, and to schedule an appointment if you are concerned about new or changing growths on your skin.

Why is it called Mohs surgery? Is Mohs an acronym?

The term "Mohs" refers to Dr. Frederic Mohs, Professor of Surgery at the University of Wisconsin, who developed this surgical technique in the 1930s. The technique has undergone many refinements and has come to be known as "Mohs micrographic surgery" or simply "Mohs surgery" in honor of Dr. Mohs.

I don't see anything after my biopsy. Do I really need to be treated?

Yes. Following a biopsy, your skin cancer no longer be visible. However, the surface lesion that was removed can represent the "tip of the iceberg." More tumor cells may remain in the skin. These can continue to grow downward and outward, like roots of a tree. These "roots" are not visible with the naked eye. If they are not removed, the tumor will likely reappear and require more extensive surgery. Tumors that are neglected can spread deeply into the skin and invade nearby structures. On rare occasions, these cancerous cells can metastasize to lymph nodes and other organs in the body.

How long does Mohs surgery take?

Although Mohs surgery can take longer than other techniques to perform, advances in technology, such as automated staining of tissue samples, have made it quicker. While it is impossible to predict exactly what timeframe to expect for each Mohs surgery procedure, the entire procedure usually lasts between 2 to 4 hours.

Will Mohs surgery leave a scar?

Yes. As will any treatment for skin cancer, Mohs surgery will leave a scar. Mohs surgery preserves as much healthy skin as possible and maximizes options for repairing the surgical defect, once the tumor is completely removed. Once Dr. Collins has completely removed your skin cancer through Mohs surgery, reconstruction for optimizing the final functional and cosmetic result becomes the highest priority. Generally, a post-surgical scar improves with time and can take up to 1 year or more to fully mature. As your surgical site heals, new blood vessels can appear and support the healing changes occurring underneath the skin. This can result in the reddish appearance of the scar. This change is temporary and will improve with time. In addition, the normal healing process involves a period of skin contraction, which often peaks 4 to 6 weeks after the surgery. This may appear as a bumpiness or hardening of the scar. On the face, this change is nearly always temporary, and the scar will soften and improve with time. Dr. Collins is available for you throughout the healing process to discuss any concerns that may arise.

For Additional Information, please visit:
ACMS Mohs Surgery Patient Education Site