Mohs Surgery

Northwestern Medicine dermatologists have expertise in the treatment of basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. Treatments options available include:
  • Surgical excision (cutting out the lesion with a scalpel)
  • Killing the cancer cells by freezing
  • Topical creams

Surgeons may also choose Mohs surgery as a treatment option. This procedure removes certain types of skin cancer, and ensures that all margins of the cancer are removed (but leaves cancer-free layers). During the surgery, after each removal of tissue, the pathologist examines the tissue specimen for cancer cells. The surgeon performing the procedure is also the pathologist reading the specimen slides.

Mohs surgery is especially useful for treatment on the face, nose, mouth, ears and feet because it removes the cancerous skin while keeping as much healthy tissue as possible and reducing deep scarring and the need for reconstructive surgery.

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma are two non-melanoma skin cancers that typically develop on skin that gets a lot of sun exposure. Basal cell carcinomas develop on the outermost layer of skin and often look like a waxy bump or a scaly patch of skin.

Common risk factors include:

  • Sun and radiation exposure
  • Fair skin
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Drugs that suppress the immune system

Squamous cell carcinoma develops on the upper layers of the skin and is often caused by sunburns, a weakened immune system, tanning beds and a history of skin cancer.

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Northwestern Medicine dermatologists pride themselves on working with patients to find the best individualized treatment for their skin conditions, including eczema and skin allergies.
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