Who was Dr. Fred Mohs and Why was the Mohs Surgery Technique he Developed so Unique?

What does M.O.H.S. stand for?

“It’s probably one of the most common questions I get asked,” says Dr. Adam Mamelak, dermatologist and fellowship trained Mohs Surgeon in Austin, Texas. “Everybody thinks it’ an acronym, but in fact, it is a specialized surgical technique named after its inventor!”

Dr. Fred Mohs (1910-2002) began devising his microsurgery technique in the 1930s while attending the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  He treated his first human patient in 1936 and officially developed the Mohs Micrographic Surgery technique in 1938.  Dr Mohs spent his life working at the University of Wisconsin.  He taught the surgical procedure he had developed to doctors around the world and advocated for its use.  He met some resistance from surgeons who were not comfortable learning skin pathology but found the method embraced by dermatologists who treated skin cancer daily.

“Learning skin histology and pathology, recognizing what different skin disorders look like under the microscope is actually part of our dermatology residency training,” explains Dr. Mamelak who studied dermatology and skin pathology at Johns Hopkins University before opening Sanova Dermatology. “That’s why this technique made so much sense.”

The procedure is a microscopically controlled surgery.  It is used for treatment of common skin cancer types.  The procedure involves:

  • Surgeon removes the visible part of the cancer along with small margin of surrounding healthy tissue.
  • While the patient waits the surgeon examines the tissue for cancer cells by taking the specimen to an on-site laboratory, using special ink to color the margins, sectioning the sample, placing the sections on microscope slides, and evaluating the slides for any residual cancer.
  • Depending on the results of the analysis the surgeon determines where to remove tissue next only removing tissue containing cancer.
  • The process repeats until all cancerous tissue has been removed.

The uniqueness of Mohs technique is the skin cancer is removed with a narrow margin but a high cure rate is still obtained.  Cure rates of 99% can be achieved and healthy tissue surrounding the cancerous tissue is unharmed.  This is ideal for patients with cancer in critical functional and anatomic regions, as well as cosmetically sensitive areas such as the face and neck.  In addition removal of less tissue results in quicker healing for the patient.

The surgery is less invasive than alternatives because significant margin is not required yet the patient leaves the office feeling confident that the tumor has been completely excised and the chance of reoccurrence is less than 1%.   The cancer is effectively removed layer by layer until it is completely gone.  The patient does not have to wait for pathological analysis to determine if the surgery was a success.  By combining the analysis during the surgery, the cost of treatment is reduced as well.

Dr. Fred Mohs developed a revolutionary surgical technique providing the ability to precisely remove cancerous tissue yet spare healthy tissue.

Contact Us

Dr. Mamelak practices at Sanova Dermatology and utilizes Mohs surgery to treat basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, some melanoma as well as a number of other types of skin tumors. For more information about Mohs surgery contact us.

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