Skin cancer surgery is a common treatment for various types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. 


The goal of skin cancer surgery is to remove cancerous lesions or tumors while minimising damage to surrounding healthy tissue. 


Depending on the type, size, and location of the skin cancer, different surgical techniques may be used.


Types of Skin Cancer Surgery

There are several types of skin cancer surgery, including:

  1. Excisional Surgery: Excisional surgery involves cutting out the entire tumor along with a margin of healthy skin tissue around it. This method is commonly used for small to moderate-sized skin cancers.

  2. Mohs Surgery: Mohs micrographic surgery is a precise technique used to remove skin cancers with high cure rates while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible. The surgeon removes thin layers of tissue one at a time and examines each layer under a microscope until no cancer cells are detected.

  3. Curettage and Electrodessication: Curettage involves scraping away the cancerous tissue with a curette (a spoon-shaped instrument), followed by electrodessication, which involves cauterizing the wound with an electric current to destroy any remaining cancer cells.

  4. Wide Local Excision: Wide local excision involves removing the tumor along with a wider margin of healthy tissue around it to ensure complete removal of any cancerous cells that may have spread beyond the visible tumor.


Recovery and Post-operative Care

After skin cancer surgery, patients will typically be discharged home the same day or after a short observation period. 


Recovery times vary depending on the type and extent of the surgery, as well as individual factors such as overall health and fitness. 


During the recovery period, patients may receive the following post-operative care:

  1. Pain Management: Pain medications may be prescribed to manage discomfort or pain after surgery.

  2. Wound Care: Patients will need to keep the surgical site clean and dry and follow any specific wound care instructions provided by their healthcare provider. This may include changing dressings and keeping the incision site covered.

  3. Activity Restrictions: Patients may be advised to avoid strenuous activities, heavy lifting, or driving for a certain period following the procedure to allow the incision to heal properly.

  4. Monitoring: Patients will be closely monitored for signs of complications such as infection, bleeding, or delayed wound healing.


Risks and Complications

While skin cancer surgery is generally considered safe, it may be associated with certain risks and complications, including:

  1. Infection: There is a risk of infection at the surgical site, particularly if proper wound care is not followed.

  2. Bleeding: Bleeding from the surgical site may occur during or after surgery, although this is rare.

  3. Scarring: Scarring at the incision site is common after skin cancer surgery, although the extent of scarring may vary depending on factors such as wound healing and skin type.

  4. Nerve Damage: There is a risk of injury to nerves near the surgical site, which may cause temporary or permanent numbness, tingling, or weakness in the affected area.

  5. Recurrence: In some cases, skin cancer may recur after surgical removal, particularly if not completely excised or if the underlying cause of the cancer is not addressed.


Follow-up Care

Follow-up care is essential for patients who have undergone skin cancer surgery and may include:

  1. Pathology Results: Patients will receive pathology results from the surgical specimen, which will determine the extent of the cancer and whether further treatment is needed.

  2. Suture Removal: Patients may need to return to their healthcare provider to have sutures removed from the incision site, typically within 1-2 weeks after surgery.

  3. Wound Check: Patients will be monitored for signs of infection or other complications at follow-up appointments.

  4. Skin Checks: Regular skin checks are essential for monitoring for any new or recurrent skin cancers, particularly if the patient has a history of skin cancer.

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