Skin Cancer

Skin cancers come in three different forms: Basal cell or BCC (most common), Squamous cell or SCC (second most common), Melanoma (rarest but most aggressive).

BCC and SCC can be treated conservatively with scraping, burning, or topical creams (often through family doctor or dermatologist) or can be excised. With BCC and SCC, if the edges of the skin are free of cancer, then usually no further treatment is required. If there is some cancer left behind, a second excision is done. If the cancer is still not clear then you would be referred to the cancer agency, where they would look at other options such as radiation.

Melanoma is a bit more involved and may include the need for a lymph node sample, further tests such as CT or X-ray, and a referral to the melanoma clinic once the area has been cleared of melanoma.

Surgery

Skin cancer excision is done under local freezing while you are awake. The sutures are dissolving except in highly noticeable areas such as the chest or face. If non-dissolving or removable stitches are used, they need to be taken out after 5-6 days if in the face, or after 7-10 days if somewhere else. You will have a light dressing or Band-Aid with ointment applied and can eat and drink before the surgery.

Recovery

Unless you have had hand surgery, you can drive after the surgery. You can shower 48 hours after. Wound care is simply washing then applying ointment and a light dressing every 1 or 2 days.

Normally, no time off work is required for these surgeries unless it is in an area (i.e. the hand) that may become soiled while working or bothered by the job. You need to avoid activities that may increase your blood pressure for a minimum of 48 hours, but ideally for 1-2 weeks to allow optimal scar results.

Complications

As in any surgery, risks include infection, scarring, delayed wound healing, bruising or bleeding, and incomplete excision or recurrence. Complications in this procedure are relatively uncommon but will be discussed further at the time of consultation. Cyst recurrence is quite high.