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Skin cancer surgery

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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


Be prepared to discuss:

  • Your type of skin cancer
  • Medical conditions, drug allergies and medical treatments
  • Use of current medications, vitamins, herbal supplements, alcohol, tobacco and drugs
  • Previous surgeries
  • The likely outcomes of your treatment and any risks or potential complications

Words to know

  • Basal cell carcinoma: The most common form of skin cancer. Occurs in the epidermis. These growths are often round and pearly or darkly pigmented.
  • Cancer: The uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancerous cells are also called malignant cells.
  • Epidermis: The uppermost portion of skin.
  • Excision: A simple surgical process to cut the lesion from the skin.
  • Frozen section: A surgical procedure in which the cancerous lesion is removed and microscopically examined by a pathologist prior to wound closure to ensure all cancerous cells have been removed.
  • General anesthesia: Drugs and/or gases used during an operation to relieve pain and alter consciousness.
  • Intravenous sedation: Sedatives administered by injection into a vein to help you relax.
  • Local flap: A surgical procedure used for skin cancer in which healthy, adjacent tissue is repositioned over the wound.
  • Melanoma: A skin cancer that is most often distinguished by its pigmented blackish or brownish coloration and irregular and ill-defined borders is the most serious form of skin cancer. It occurs in the deepest portion of the epidermis, and for this reason, melanoma is the most likely form of skin cancer to spread quickly in the skin and to other parts of the body.
  • Mohs surgery: A surgical procedure that's used when skin cancer is like an iceberg. Beneath the skin, the cancerous cells cover a much larger region and there are no defined borders.
  • Nevi: A mole.
  • Skin graft: A surgical procedure used for skin cancer. Healthy skin is removed from one area of the body and relocated to the wound site. A suture line is positioned to follow the natural creases and curves of the face if possible, to minimize the appearance of the resulting scar.

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