Skin Cancer Surgery
Australians have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with
approximately two in three Australians being diagnosed with skin cancer by the
time they are 70. It should come as no surprise then, that skin cancer removal
surgery is the most frequently performed procedure at Adelaide Plastic Surgery.
Although common, it is important to remember that skin cancers can be dangerous
if left untreated and should be taken seriously.
Majority of skin cancers form as a result of sun exposure, with 95% of Melanomas caused by UV radiation exposure. Skin cancers can also develop in areas that have little to no exposure to the sun at all, so it is important to be constantly aware of any new or changing moles, and keep up with regular skin checks.
There are three main types of skin cancer;
- Basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) – are the most common. They usually occur on areas exposed to the sun and grow slowly over time. They almost never spread elsewhere, however, if left untreated they will continue to grow, making treatment more difficult.
- Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) – are also very common in Australia. They can grow quickly and can spread if left untreated, so early detection is key. SCCs often appear on lips, ears, scalp, back of the hands and on lower legs.
- Melanomas – are another form of skin cancer that arise from our pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. Whilst not as common as BCCs or SCCs, they are potentially fatal and early detection is crucial. They can arise from moles, but often develop on normal skin. Melanomas, unlike BCCs and SCCs, can often occur in younger people. The risk factors for developing melanomas include, a family history of melanoma, excessive sun exposure, sunburn (particularly when young) and having many moles.
If you have been diagnosed with a skin cancer and have a letter of referral, one of our specialist plastic surgeons would be pleased to discuss your treatment options in an initial consultation.
The Procedure + Surgical Techniques
Due to their expertise and precise surgical skills, many people chose to see a plastic surgeon for the removal of their skin cancer, as the residual scar is often neat and minimal. The surgical technique will be dependent on your individual surgical needs and your surgeon’s preferences. A number of factors are considered, including the type and size of your skin cancer, as well as its location on your body.
Small, straightforward lesions are able to be removed using a simple excision technique. Your surgeon will use a scalpel to remove the lesion along with a margin of surrounding tissue, which helps to ensure all cancer cells are removed. If the skin cancer is on the edge of a lip, ear or nostril, your surgeon may use a wedge excision. The area is then pulled close and sutured, and then covered by a small piece of breathable tape.
If your skin cancer surgery requires a significant amount of tissue to be removed, your surgeon may not be able to pull the area closed with sutures. In this instance, your surgeon may use a skin graft from a donor site, or skin flap. Your surgeon will indicate your individual surgical needs in your initial consultation, and explain your procedure in detail.
As a duty of care at Adelaide Plastic Surgery, any tissue that is excised during your procedure is sent to a pathology clinic for testing. This is to ensure all cancer cells have been removed. If pathology results indicate there are cancer cells remaining, you may be required to have a wider excision.
Hospital Stay and Anaesthesia
Depending on individual circumstances, your hand surgery can be safely performed either under a general anaesthetic with an anaesthetist present, or, in our rooms in our accredited theatre with local anaesthetic. Your plastic surgeon will discuss your choices in your initial consultation and determine which option is safest for you.
In order to keep your consultation as smooth and efficient as possible, we ask that you please bring all relevant documentation with you on the day. This includes your referral letter, Medicare card, private health insurance details, any third party or return to work insurance information, and any relevant scans or pathology results i.e. x-ray or ultrasounds.
During your initial consultation with one of our specialist plastic surgeons, you will have an extended opportunity to discuss expectations and desired outcomes, along with any questions you may have about the procedure. We highly recommend preparing a list of questions for your surgeon prior to your appointment, and remember, there’s no such thing as a silly question!
You will then meet with your surgeon’s personal assistant. You will be given an in-depth quote, outlining the surgeon, hospital and anaesthetist fees (if you’re having general anaesthesia), along with some take home information about your procedure.
We recommend that you allow around half an hour for this consultation. Please keep this in mind when organising parking so that you don’t feel the need to rush.
Recovery time is highly individual and your time frame
for recovery will vary depending on your individual surgery details, the
nature of your employment and your overall level of health. Your surgeon
will discuss this with you prior to surgery, and it is important to allow
yourself the recommended recovery time.
On discharge, you will be given specific postoperative instructions to facilitate recovery, these instructions will cover everything you will need to know in order to make your recovery as smooth and comfortable as possible.
Post-surgery a dressing is applied, which can remain in place until it falls off. You can shower with the tapes on and pat them dry with a towel. If the tapes fall off, leave the wound open, wash daily and pat dry. It is normal for the suture lines to ooze blood for 24–48 hours. If the area bleeds, we recommend sitting or lying down, elevating the area and applying firm pressure for 20–25 minutes. Ice packs can also be applied to assist in controlling the bleeding. If you have had a graft, the donor site will have a dressing, which must remain clean and dry. It is perfectly normal for these sites to bleed or ooze for a number of days, along with some mild discomfort.
Sutures are removed at your first post-operative appointment, which is between seven to 14 days depending on your individual surgery details. At this appointment your surgeon will also give you your pathology results.
Our team is here to support you to make a swift, uncomplicated recovery. We offer a 24/7 on-call medical assistance service for all our post-operative patients.
Ready to book an initial consultation?
If you are ready to book your initial consultation, please book online or call us to book with one of our helpful team members. We’ll be pleased to help you start your journey.
Not quite ready or have a question to ask?
Stay up to date
News – March 23, 2023
Will my surgery leave me with a scar?
Specialist Plastic Surgeon Dr Anthony Porter and Jo Herreen RN discuss everything you need to know about post surgical scarring in our latest blog post. Read it now