Have you recently had your world flipped upside-down with a skin cancer diagnosis? Has your doctor recommended Mohs surgery as one of your skin cancer treatment options? If so, then you need to learn as much as you can about the process.
One of the aspects of Mohs surgery that doesn’t get talked about enough is the recovery stage. It’s vitally important that patients understand what to expect after the surgery has been performed. That way, you can set realistic expectations for yourself.
See below for an in-depth guide on Mohs surgery recovery, what you can expect, and how long it might take to recover.
What Is Mohs Surgery?
If you or a loved one has had their doctor tell them about Mohs surgery, the weight of the initial shock can be overwhelming. It can be hard to digest that your cancer is at a point where surgery is performed.
However, the comforting part is that Mohs surgery is relatively straightforward. As you might expect, it’s a form of surgery that’s specifically used to treat skin cancer.
During a Mohs surgery procedure, the surgeon will remove the skin from the patient layer by layer. After each layer is removed, it is analyzed to see if the cancerous tissue has been completely removed.
The process starts with Mohs surgery doctors outlining the tumorous skin tissue that needs to be removed. Then they’ll perform the procedure from there.
The goal with Mohs surgery is to remove as little skin as possible. They go layer by layer to ensure that the cancer is removed, but that they aren’t removing any more skin tissue than needed.
Depending on how many layers they had to remove, the doctor will then apply stitches to enclose the area and prevent infection. Those stitches are typically removed two weeks or so from the date they were applied.
What Will I Experience After the Surgery?
It’s perfectly normal to wonder what kind of pain you will be experiencing after the Mohs surgery procedure is finished. We’ll preface this by saying that your pain levels will depend on how significant the surgery ends up being. See below for what you can expect:
Swelling and Bruising
Again, different Mohs surgery patients experience different levels of pain and discomfort during the recovery process. Swelling and bruising are some of the most universal symptoms you can expect from recovery.
Be prepared for the fact that swelling can continue to worsen for up to 4 or 5 days after the surgery was initially performed.
We recommend that you take a picture of the swelling each day after surgery. If the bruising and swelling haven’t improved in a week or so, be sure to reach back out to your doctor for more information.
The good news is that bleeding isn’t a common factor in Mohs surgery recovery. That said, if you try to overexert yourself with activities, excessive bleeding can be a side effect.
We recommend trying to limit intense physical activities such as playing sports, working out, running, and so on. Give yourself a week or so before engaging in these activities again.
Seepage is entirely normal. Simply dab at it with a wet towel to remove it. But if the bleeding is active be sure to place a dry towel (or dry gauze, if you have it handy) and apply pressure to the area. If the bleeding continues after half an hour, contact your doctor.
While you might not be able to engage in intense physical activity for a week or two, the good news is that you shouldn’t expect to feel much pain during recovery.
Most patients report a minimal level of discomfort. If the pain is bothering you or hindering your day, we recommend taking Tylenol to counteract it. Be sure to follow instructions on the label and do not exceed the recommended dosage.
If the pain level becomes too severe to handle, be sure to reach out to your doctor right away. They can give you further advice on how to handle the situation.
We can’t stress this enough. Many patients are tempted to push the limits due to the minimal discomfort that they’re feeling. However, your body needs time to heal.
Give yourself at least one week of limited intense physical activity. After a week, contact your doctor and let them know how your recovery is coming along. Let them be the ones to tell you whether you can engage in physical activity again or to wait a bit longer.
Remember, it’s a minor convenience in the long-term. You just underwent surgery, give your body time to recover.
One of the most common questions we get is scarring. Although it can vary depending on the intensiveness of the procedure, you should expect to have a scar once the wound fully heals.
That said, these scars are minimal and usually start to fade within the first couple of months after recovering. The best way to prevent scarring is to stick with your follow-up appointments.
There are also many other ways you can try to remove scars once you’re fully healed. For now, focus on the surgery and recovery.
Take Your Mohs Surgery Recovery Seriously
As long as you put in the time and effort to aid your Mohs surgery recovery, you’ll return to normal in no time.
The good news is that (other than workouts and sports), you’ll be able to go about your daily life while the Mohs recovery is in process.
Be sure to browse our website for more articles on surgery recovery, as well as many other topics that you enjoy reading about.