Skin Cancer Surgery
UF Health plastic and reconstructive surgeons understand the challenges skin cancer patients face
Finding out you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer is frightening. You have to cope with not only concerns about your overall health, but fear that surgical treatment for your condition could result in permanent scarring.
UF Health surgeons understand your concerns. Read on to learn more about why skin cancer surgery may be necessary, and how skin cancer surgery specialists minimize the impact of this procedure.
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How will I know if I’m a good candidate for skin cancer surgery?
Any type of cancer will spread if left unchecked. While pre-cancerous cells or early detection of a few types of skin cancer is treatable by noninvasive means some of the time, the majority of cases require surgery.
Specialists may recommend a skin cancer surgery procedure even for these minor cases, as many topical alternatives run the risk of dangerous side effects, and not all types of cancer can be effectively treated in this manner.
Surgical removal of a tumor caused by skin cancer has a higher success rate than other methods.
Melanoma is more likely than other skin cancers to spread to lymph nodes and other organs. With skin cancer, the danger is that it will spread in the existing area. Surgical removal of the tumor, as well as a small amount of skin around the melanoma, is therefore the most effective treatment.
If your doctor has recommended surgery to remove your skin cancer, this means that the severity and type of cancer merit this procedure.
How should I prepare for skin cancer surgery?
Your UF Health skin cancer surgeon will provide you with instructions for any changes you need to make to your routine leading up to surgery, but a few recommendations you can expect include:
- Quitting smoking – If you’re a smoker, your doctor has probably already recommended this. However, it is doubly important for those about to undergo plastic surgery. Nicotine’s blood vessel constricting properties slow healing, leading to a higher possibility of scarring and increasing your risk of infection.
- Changing medication routines – This might include taking new medications or stopping some of your existing medications for a time. You’ll also be instructed to avoid over-the-counter medications, especially those with blood-thinning properties such as aspirin, NSAIDs and some herbal treatments.
- Further testing – Although your doctor has already determined that your skin cancer type and severity requires surgical removal, your Florida plastic/skin cancer surgeon may require more information to determine the specifics of your skin cancer surgery.
Depending on the size and severity of your tumor, you will either be given a local anesthetic or be sedated for the procedure. If sedation is required, your skin cancer surgery will take place at a surgical facility. You may need to undergo further testing before being given anesthesia, and you’ll be instructed not to eat the day of the procedure.
If you have any questions about the procedure or recovery, write them down and bring them with you to your pre-surgery consultation with your UF Health skin cancer surgeon. We are here to help you understand the specifics of your procedure, your recovery process and the expected outcome.
What can I expect after my skin cancer surgery?
- Your surgeon will provide you with instructions for cleaning and caring for your wound. Follow these instructions and be cautious in your movements. Stretching can hinder healing and may even reopen your incision.
- Be prepared to apply ointments and fresh bandages to your wound for several weeks or months following your procedure. The bandages help protect the area from injury and infection, while topical medications promote healing and help minimize scarring by keeping the skin around the incision pliable.
- Plan to keep the wound protected from sunlight throughout the healing process, as sun exposure can hinder healing, exacerbate scarring, and is particularly dangerous to those already known to be susceptible to skin cancer.
- Expect at least one follow-up appointment where your doctor will evaluate the speed and success of your healing. For larger wounds, your doctor will likely want to regularly monitor your healing over a period of months.
- If you find yourself unhappy with the results of the natural healing process, we can perform additional reconstructive procedures. Be aware, however, that removing skin cancer requires a deep incision, and the scars from wounds of this nature never completely disappear.
- While you will always have some level of skin discoloration or textural changes, following wound care instructions and visiting your plastic surgeon for follow-up procedures can greatly minimize this scarring.
- Patients who have undergone skin cancer surgery should make all-over sun protection a priority. For Florida residents especially, wear sunscreen regularly — as well as a hat to protect the sensitive skin around the face and ears.
Most skin cancer surgery is minimally invasive and has a high rate of success. However, it is normal to have questions and concerns before any surgical procedure. Our skin cancer surgeons understand this and will be happy to answer any questions you have about your procedure, treatment, recovery and prognosis.