Advice To Someone Having Mohs Surgery
Mohs surgery is far from an easy procedure. In this surgery, your Mohs surgeon will remove your skin cancer layer by layer and requires multiple steps. Once your surgeon examines the layer removed under a microscope, he or she will determine if there are any cancer cells left. If your surgeon notices any cancer cells, they will remove another layer of skin. This process repeats until there are no more cancer cells present. This procedure is quite extensive and it’s important to know as much as you can about it.
Here are some of the things you shared:
"Research. Look at images online to prepare yourself. It's nasty but I find it's better to know than be shocked at your own results."
"Don’t go into it expecting it to be like a small mole removal. It is not that simple and often a significant amount of skin needs to be cut out."
"I never know how much tissue will require removal before clear margins are achieved. And then closure may require flaps or grafts."
"I found it very difficult to bear... four stages plus reconstruction on my nose. You must be mentally prepared for a surgery that you are awake for. The smell of your own burning flesh can be off-putting, to say the least."
When having Mohs surgery, more than likely you won’t know how much skin will be removed which means the scar may be bigger than you initially thought. Doing your own research and looking at images of post-Mohs surgery wounds is beneficial to get a better idea of how you will look right after the procedure. Understand the difference between skin grafts and flaps because this may be required on the day of your Mohs surgery.
Tips for the day of the procedure
"I have had Mohs with reconstruction 5 different times on my face. After the first surgery, I knew to bring ice packs for the 45-minute ride home. This does help until you get home."
"If needles and cutting in you make you nervous, do not hesitate to ask for a light sedative."
"Have a good support person with you, bring snacks, a book, or tablet to pass the time between procedures. Plan on staying all day."
"The first time I had Mohs, I was not prepared and it was very deep. I had to have skin from under my eye to cover the hole in my nose. I didn’t want a graft and my doctor had said, “ Why don’t you take a look in the mirror now. “ I did not. Big mistake. When I got home, I fainted."
You’ll have a range of emotions during the day of your Mohs surgery. Anxiety for how many layers will be taken, fear of how the scar will look, relief that the cancer is finally being removed, etc. Take a loved one with you to the procedure. There may be a lot of downtime in between since the surgeon will examine each layer of skin he/she removes. Bring someone to talk to or an activity to keep you busy while you wait. Also, ask questions and get the answers your need to relieve some of the anxiety you may be feeling.
Tips for aftercare
“Follow healing instructions also Mederma scar cream & Aquaphor. The scar will look awful at first but it really does keep fading away.”
“Vaseline is your best friend!”
“Give yourself time to heal.”
“Follow the doctors/nurses full advice after Mohs surgery. Do not bend over! Do not lift over 5 pounds! And do not pick at it!”
“Buy a GOOD scar cream. They work if you are diligent and also use a good sunscreen after the scar cream dries.”
Mohs surgery is far from an easy procedure, so it’s extremely important to follow all of your aftercare instructions provided by your doctor/surgeon. Your body is your temple, so give it the time it needs to heal. After surgery, the stitches and wounds will be noticeable, but many of our members have had fantastic results. Within a few months, the scar was no longer visible.
Focus on getting the cancer out
“I tried to focus on ridding my body of the cancer rather than the fact that I had skin cancer.”
“Be thankful that you are getting rid of the cancer and moving on. Better the scar than cancer that can spread.”
“Concentrate on getting the cancer out, and have a good support system.”
It’s common for those living with skin cancer to ruminate. You may feel that skin cancer is part of your identity now, but this diagnosis does not define you. Every year, tens of thousands of people die from skin cancer. You are not one of them. You caught your skin cancer in time. Focus on getting the cancer out of your body and living your life to the fullest.
Thank you to all who shared with the community
Recurrence is quite common so be diligent with your sunscreen. Wear sun-protective clothing when outdoors. Enjoy some time in the sun, but be safe! This is your body, so it’s your job to protect it at all costs.
Thank you to all of our community members who shared your experiences with us. Share any other Mohs surgery advice or tips in the comments below!
Do you check the UV index before leaving the house?