Penn Dermatology

Instructions After Mohs Surgery for Skin Cancer at Penn

Patients should review all pre- and post-surgical information with their physician before and after Mohs micrographic surgery and reconstruction. Penn Dermatology's Mohs surgeons are available for consultation or questions regarding all aspects of the procedure, including post-treatment.

After Treatment

Pain or Discomfort

Most patients have minimal pain after Mohs surgery that is usually controlled by taking acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Patients should avoid products containing aspirin or ibuprofen as these can promote bleeding. In some cases, the Penn dermatologic surgeon may prescribe a stronger medication for pain.

Wound Care

The Penn Dermatology clinical staff explains and demonstrates the techniques for wound care immediately after Mohs surgery. Patients also receive written instructions and information for contacting the Penn Mohs surgeon directly, in the rare case of an emergency.

In order to protect the surgical wound, patients should avoid strenuous activities for at least one week after surgery. They should prepare for the possibility of visible swelling, redness and bruising for one or two weeks after surgery, especially if the skin cancer is on the central face (forehead, eyes, nose or lips).

Scarring and Healing

Any surgery to remove skin cancer results in a scar. However, the precision of the Mohs technique helps decrease the amount of scarring by removing all of the diseased skin while leaving behind as much healthy skin as possible. Penn's expert Mohs surgeons repair surgical wounds to make the scar as minimal and unnoticeable as possible.

Most patients heal well and do not require additional treatment for their scars. However, patients with concerns about the scarring or healing process should contact Penn Dermatology to discuss other options for cosmetic improvements.

Follow-up Care

Patients usually return in one to two weeks to have their stitches removed and to ensure that the wound is healing well. Patients may need to return for additional visits to ensure that the scar has healed with the best possible result. It is important for patients to return regularly to their referring doctor or primary care provider for regular skin checkups to look for any new skin cancers.

Skin Cancer Recurrence Rates after Mohs Surgery

Approximately 1 to 2 percent of skin cancers may grow back after Mohs micrographic surgery. For certain high-risk skin cancers, this recurrence rate may be higher.

Since there is a slim chance the skin cancer may grow back, Penn Dermatology recommends consistent monitoring of the surgical site, as well as all other areas of the body for any signs of skin cancer. Patients should contact Penn Dermatology or the referring health care provider for evaluation if they have any concerns that the skin cancer may be growing back.

Adopting Sun Smart Habits

Adopting sun-smart habits and performing regular self-skin examinations are critical to keeping skin healthy and cancer free.

Penn Dermatology recommends all patients adopt these sun-smart habits including:

  • Faithful avoidance of harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun (or from tanning salons), especially between the peak hours of 10 am to 4 pm
  • Sensible coverage with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat, long sleeves and pants, whenever possible
  • Daily use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen (UVA/UVB protection) with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher on areas of exposed skin