Skin Cancer and Your Plastic Surgeon

What is skin cancer?

Hearing a diagnosis of “cancer” is very difficult to accept. Understanding that treating your skin cancer may result in scars or disfigurement can also be troubling. Your plastic surgeon understands your concerns and will guide you through treatment and explain the resulting effect on your health and appearance.

Quick facts about skin cancer treatment:

  • · Treatment of skin cancer, much like any form of cancer, may require surgery to remove cancerous growths
  • · Your plastic surgeon can surgically remove cancerous and other skin lesions using specialized techniques to preserve your health and your appearance
  • · Although no surgery is without scars, your plastic surgeon will make every effort to treat your skin cancer without dramatically changing your appearance
  • · For some people, reconstruction may require more than one procedure to achieve the best results

What you should know about skin cancer

Skin cancer is a common, usually low-grade cancerous growth of the skin. It starts from cells that begin as normal skin cells and transform into those with the potential to reproduce in an out-of-control manner. Unlike other cancers, the vast majority of skin cancers have no potential to spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening.

Be prepared to discuss:
  • · Why you want the surgery, your expectations and desired outcome
  • · Medical conditions, drug allergies and medical treatments
  • · Use of current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drugs
  • · Previous surgeries
Your surgeon may also:
  • · Evaluate your general health status and any pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
  • · Examine your skin in detail
  • · Take photographs for your medical record
  • · Discuss your options and recommend a course of treatment
  • · Discuss likely outcomes and any risks or potential complications

Important facts about safety and risks of skin cancer removal surgery

Once you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, you are at a higher risk to develop another skin cancer. Skin cancer may reoccur. So, it’s important to discuss the signs of skin cancer with your physician, regularly perform self-examinations for suspicious lesions, and schedule an annual skin cancer screening. You will have to decide if the risks and potential complications of skin cancer removal surgery are acceptable.

The risks include:
  • · Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations, or injected agents
  • · Anaesthesia risks
  • · Excessive bleeding
  • · Change in skin sensation
  • · Recurrence of skin cancer
  • · Damage to deeper structures – such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles – can occur and may be temporary or permanent
  • · Infection
  • · Poor healing of incisions
  • · Possibility of revision surgery
  • · Systemic spread of skin cancer
Be sure to ask questions:

It’s very important to address all your questions directly with your plastic surgeon. It is natural to feel some anxiety, whether excitement for the anticipated outcome or preoperative stress. Discuss these feelings with your plastic surgeon.