Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in Australians. Risk factors include sun exposure and a family history of skin cancer. GPs play a pivotal role in the early detection and treatment of skin cancer, so we encourage everybody to see their GP for regular skin checks. Removal of skin cancers is often performed as day-only surgery. You will usually have a light anaesthetic so that you are comfortable while the surgery is being performed. You will usually have stitches that will require removal one to two weeks after the operation, and arrangements will be made for this to occur either at our rooms, in the day surgery or with your local doctor.
Some cancers will require a skin graft, particularly on the scalp, lower leg and occasionally on the ears or nose. This means that some skin will be taken from elsewhere on your body (usually upper arm or thigh) and used to fill in the hole after your cancer is removed. You will have a dressing on the graft that will be removed 3-5 days later. Grafts on the lower legs need bedrest to heal well, so occasionally we admit people to hospital for a period of time after the surgery.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are the commonest forms of skin cancer. These cancers rarely spread to other sites and complete excision of the cancer is curative.
Melanoma is a more aggressive, potentially deadly skin cancer. Melanoma can spread to nearby glands and to other organs such as the liver, bones or brain. Early detection is vital, as the deeper the melanoma grows, the more likely it is to spread to other organs. Surgery to remove the melanoma can still be curative, however after the surgery you will need to see your surgeon regularly to monitor for any signs that the cancer has returned. Some patients will also have surgery on nearby lymph nodes in their armpit or groin.