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Mohs Micrographic Surgery for Skin Cancer

From left to right: Henry Avery, Kelly O'Farrell, Lori Kennedy, Dr. Nicole Vélez, Ashley Bailey, Shannon Vaughn

If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh offers Mohs micrographic surgery, a highly specialized treatment with the highest cure rate for skin cancer.

What is Mohs Micrographic Surgery?

Mohs surgery is named in honor of Dr. Frederic E. Mohs, the physician who developed the technique in the 1930s. It has since been continuously refined. The Mohs surgery technique is unique in that it combines surgical removal of the cancer with immediate microscopic examination of the tissue. This allows the surgeon to remove only cancerous skin and preserve as much healthy skin as possible. For these reasons, Mohs surgery has the highest cure rate of all skin cancer treatment methods, and also creates the smallest possible surgical defect, allowing for a better cosmetic outcome.

What are the advantages of Mohs?

  • Highest cure rate for skin cancer. The cure rate after treatment of a primary tumor is 98-99%, and cure rate after treatment of a recurrent tumor (one that was previously treated) is 95%.
  • After removing the tumor, the tissue is processed and the surgeon examines the entire margin under the microscope. If more tumor remains, the surgeon uses the map to determine where further tissue needs to be removed. This process is repeated until the entire margin is clear of tumor, ensuring removal of all skin cancer and minimizing removal of healthy tissue.
  • Complete removal of the skin cancer and reconstruction the same day. When necessary, coordinated care with other specialists such as oculoplastics, plastic surgery or radiation oncology is readily available within Allegheny Health Network.
  • The procedure is done under local anesthesia, eliminating the risks of intravenous sedation or general anesthesia.
  • It is a cost effective form of skin cancer removal given the high cure rates and low complication rates.

Can my skin cancer be treated with Mohs?

Mohs micrographic surgery is primarily used to treat basal and squamous cell cancers, but can also be used to treat less common tumors, including dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans and others. Indications for Mohs surgery include:

  • A cancer in a "high risk" or cosmetically sensitive area (scalp, face, ears, neck, hands, feet, genitalia)
  • A cancer that was previously treated and recurred
  • A large cancer
  • A cancer with ill-defined edges
  • A cancer that is growing quickly

Dr. Nicole Velez - Mohs Pittsburgh Skin Cancer CareAbout Dr. Nicole F. Vélez

Dr. Nicole Vélez is a board certified dermatologist and American College of Mohs Surgery (ACMS) fellowship trained Mohs surgeon. Originally from Pittsburgh, Dr. Vélez graduated Phi Beta Kappa and cum laude from Carnegie Mellon University and with Alpha Omega Alpha honors from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She completed a combined internal medicine and dermatology residency at Harvard Medical School, working at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of Boston, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Lahey Clinic, and the Boston Veterans Affairs Hospital. She went on to complete a fellowship in Mohs micrographic surgery, cutaneous oncology, cosmetic dermatology, and nail surgery in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and a member of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgeons, American College of Mohs Surgeons, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology. Dr. Vélez has published over 20 peer-reviewed journal articles and lectured both nationally and internationally on skin cancer.

Preparing for surgery

What to expect on the day of surgery

Frequently asked questions about Mohs surgery

Helpful Links

Location & Directions

  • Park in the James Street Garage, which is located at the intersection of E North Avenue and James Street.

  • After taking a ticket, proceed to the 3rd level of the garage, where there is a direct entrance to the Allegheny Professional Building.

  • If you have a driver with you, they can drop you off here and then park their car.

  • After entering the Allegheny Professional Building, proceed straight and make a right before the elevators.

  • Continue through the East Wing entryway. 

  • You will then pass a dinosaur sculpture and the Neurosurgery offices on your left.

  • Continue down this hallway. Make a quick left at the end of the hall and then make a right at Elevator D. Straight ahead you will see a sign for the Ambulatory Surgical Offices. The Mohs Micrographic Surgery suite is located here. 

Contact us with any questions
Phone: 412.359.3721
Fax: 412.359.6304