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Mohs workshop at Skinmatters Mohs Unit by International Mohs Surgeons

A well-known fact is that there is an epidemic of skin cancer in the world, and South Africa is no exception. The Gold Standard surgical method worldwide for the most effective removal of skin cancer is a technique called Mohs Surgery. (“Mohs” refers to the surname of the doctor who first practiced it). With this technique, performed in most cases under a local anaesthetic, the tumor is removed with a thin layer of surrounding healthy tissue.

The removed tissue is then processed immediately in a Mohs histological laboratory on site, while the patient returns to the ward.

The specific method of processing allows tissue slides to be produced that shows the whole, complete cut surface around the tumour and are then examined by the Mohs surgeon; it will show very accurately any remaining tumour, including the exact area on the tumour wound where tumour is still present.

The patient then returns to the day theatre and the process is repeated, but only on the area of remaining tumour, leaving the healthy tumour-free part of the wound alone. As soon as the Mohs surgery confirms the skin cancer to be completely removed, a specialist reconstructive surgeon or the Mohs surgeon repairs the defect where the cancer was removed. The end result is the highest possible level of certainty that the skin cancer has been completely removed.

At the 2015 combined annual conference of the South African Society of Dermatological Surgery and the Dermatological Society of South Africa we were privileged to have three international renowned Mohs surgeons as invited guest of the conference. Immediately following the conference, the Mohs surgery unit at Life Brooklyn Day Hospital hosted the three Mohs surgeons in a workshop where complicated cases were treated by the Mohs surgeons over the course of two days. The workshops were attended on each day by five local South African dermatologists interested in Mohs and skin cancer surgery. The attending South African dermatologists came from all over the country.

Very difficult cases were treated and reconstructed while continuous teaching were provided to the attendees. The international Mohs surgeons also taught new frozen section histology laboratory techniques to the histo-technologists in the Mohs laboratory.

The two day workshop was a tremendous opportunity and a fantastic experience for everyone involved. The Mohs unit would like to thank Life Brooklyn Day Hospital for making the facilities available for continuous medical improvement over the course of the two days, and facilitating upskilling in this surgical skill which is still new to South Africa.