Skin Cancer Removal

About Skin Cancer Surgery

The removal of cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions is a critical step in fighting skin cancer at an early stage, before it might become more serious and perhaps even life threatening. The Form & Function Clinic has many years of expertise in this area and treats many cases, of all severities.

Your Procedure

The simplest form of skin cancer surgery involves the excision, or removal, of a lesion along with some of the healthy skin around it. Generally, you will require only a local anaesthetic to numb the area, and the wound will be closed with either dissolvable or non-dissolvable stitches.

If the lesion and consequent wound is large, or in a prominent place, you may require a split skin graft or flap repair. A skin graft involves taking skin from a donor site on another area of the body (often the thigh) and grafting it onto the wound.

Sometimes the surgeon will need to use a skin flap to cover the area that remains once the lesion is removed. This flap (an area of skin near to the lesion) has a blood supply and can be either large or small. Your doctor will discuss what option is right for you.

After Your Procedure

  • Some pain or discomfort at your wound site(s) can be expected. This will eventually settle and can be managed with oral pain medication.
  • Some swelling or bruising is normal. It may appear immediately after your procedure, gradually over a 48 hour period, or not at all. It may take two to three weeks to settle down.
  • You may have some bleeding from your wound. This should only last for 48 hours. If bleeding continues longer than this, please contact staff at the clinic, your GP or your closest emergency department.
  • To help prevent excess bleeding or swelling, try to keep the operative site higher than your heart (e.g. if your operation was on your arm, elevate your arm on two pillows while lying or sitting).
  • Immediately after a split skin graft or a flap repair, you will be resting in bed with you head higher than your heart to help prevent excessive bleeding and swelling.

At Home

If you have simply had a lesion removed:

  • Keep any dressings dry and intact until your post-op review at the clinic.
  • If you have no dressing, keep the wound dry for seven days and apply Vaseline twice a day for two weeks to help the wound heal.
  • Dissolvable stitches may take up to three weeks to dissolve and fall out. Non-dissolvable stitches will be removed by a clinic nurse at the post-op review. This is generally seven to ten days after surgery.
  • You will need to attend two post-op visits. The first will be with a clinic nurse one to two weeks after your operation, when any non-dissolvable stitches will be removed and any necessary dressings will be reapplied. The healing of the wound will also be checked and you will be given the pathology results of the lesion. The second review will be with your surgeon, once the healing process is complete.

If you have had a split skin graft:

  • Some continued pain or discomfort at your wound sites can be expected. This will eventually settle and can be managed with oral pain medication.
  • Some bleeding from the donor site can be normal.
  • To help prevent excessive bleeding or swelling, try to have the graft site higher than your heart for at least the first week after surgery.
  • You may need to come to the clinic once a week for new dressings until your surgeon is satisfied that the skin graft has taken and is healed.

If you have a flap repair:

  • Some continued pain or discomfort at your wound sites can be expected. This will eventually settle and can be managed with oral pain medication.
  • Some bleeding from the donor site can be normal.
  • To help prevent excessive bleeding or swelling, try to have the graft site higher than your heart for at least the first week after surgery.
  • You may need to come to the clinic once a week for new dressings until your surgeon is satisfied that the skin graft has taken and is healed.

Things To Look Out For

Surgery is not without its risks and we encourage all patients to be mindful of the warning signs that a complication may be developing. If you experience any of the following symptoms during your recovery, please contact us immediately.

  • Signs of infection such as; high temperature, heavy discharge from your wound site, an increase in redness or heat around your wound site, or a dramatic increase in pain that is not relieved by oral pain medication.
  • Increased swelling around your wound.
  • Nausea or vomiting which does not settle.

Outside of clinic hours, please contact your GP or closest emergency department.