If you’ve been told you have skin cancer, you’re not alone. Skin cancer claims more diagnoses than any other type of cancer, with about 10,000 adults learning they have this disease every day.
Squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas are two of the most common types of skin cancers. But thanks to advances in medical technology, these cancers are usually curable when detected early — especially when treated with Mohs surgery.
At Manhattan Dermatology in New York City, our board-certified dermatologists Wendy Long Mitchell, MD, and Vicki J. Levine, MD, perform Mohs surgery at our offices in the Murray Hill and Midtown East sections of Manhattan.
Mohs surgery uses advanced surgical techniques that remove all cancerous tissues while keeping the surrounding healthy tissues safe and intact. We remove thin layers of skin affected by the cancer and then study each in a laboratory until all of the cancer is removed.
Recovering after Mohs surgery: What to expect
After your Mohs surgery, we give you detailed post-procedure instructions. We address any questions or concerns you may have and give you the supplies you need to get started with aftercare.
While everyone’s Mohs surgery is slightly different based on the location and size of the cancer and how much tissue we had to remove, recovering from Mohs works the way it does for most cuts or wounds.
Some patients receive stitches or sutures, while those with small wounds may only have a bandage. Larger wounds may require reconstructive surgery at the same time as your Mohs surgery or at a later date.
You can expect to go home the same day as your treatment, and most patients manage any slight pain or discomfort with over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, and ice packs.
If your Mohs surgery was more extensive, we may prescribe a stronger pain reliever.
You might notice mild swelling, bruising, bleeding, or oozing at the incision site. Follow your wound care instructions carefully, and wash your hands thoroughly before and after caring for your incision.
Depending on how much tissue we remove, your age, overall health, and other factors, your recovery may take up to several weeks. We generally remove sutures or stitches 5-10 days after your surgery.
Most people can return to work the day after their procedure, but we may recommend no bending, heavy lifting, or vigorous exercise for several days after your surgery to promote healing and minimize the risk of bleeding.
You might notice that a small area around your incision is numb to the touch in the weeks following your procedure. This occurs when small nerve endings are damaged as we excise the cancer. This numbness can continue for several weeks or months, and in some cases it can be permanent.
When to call your surgeon
While complications from Mohs surgery are rare, it’s possible to experience side effects that require prompt medical attention after any surgery. If you notice any of the following symptoms, call us immediately:
- Significant bleeding
- Pain that worsens over time
- Pus or other unexpected drainage
You should also call us if you have questions about wound care or concerns about different activities after your surgery.
The importance of ongoing skin care
Mohs surgery has a very high success rate, with 99% of newly diagnosed and 95% of recurring skin cancers cured. But it’s possible for skin cancer to reappear in the same location or in other places.
In fact, once you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer, your chances of developing it again increase significantly. The best way to stop skin cancer is with regular skin checks.
Do you still have questions about what to expect after Mohs surgery? Schedule an appointment online or over the phone today.