Skin Cancer Reconstruction: Procedure Overview
Procedure- Skin cancer is extremely common on the face, especially in the desert environment of Arizona. Dr. Brown is well-trained in performing these surgeries, and often works in conjunction with a dermatologist in the removal and reconstruction. These cancers are usually squamous cell or basal cell carcinomas. Note that melanoma, while more dangerous, is less commonly found on the face. After your skin cancer has been removed, Dr. Brown pays particular attention to repair the defect as close to normal as possible.
The surgery and incisions – Reconstruction after skin cancer removal can be done immediately or in a staged approach. If you are undergoing Mohs’ surgery by a dermatologist for removal of your cancer, you may have to wait 1-2 days before your reconstruction. In between the surgeries you should keep your wound clean and apply antibiotic ointment daily. Dr. Brown will discuss with you all options for reconstruction which may involve borrowing tissue from another part of the face to help close the wound.
Preparing for surgery – Tell Dr. Brown about any medical problems you have, and any problems you may have had with surgery in the past. A history of bleeding problems, nausea with surgery and high blood pressure are all important to disclose to your surgeon, because these are risk factors for post-surgical bleeding. You will be told which medications to stop and which to take before surgery. If you smoke, you will be asked to quit for a minimum of 4 weeks prior to surgery as well as 4 weeks after surgery. If you get sick or have any health issues in the days before surgery, please notify the office at once in case we have to postpone your operation.
Can I go home the day of the surgery? – Most skin cancer reconstruction can be done safely as an outpatient, and most patients will be able to go home the same day.
What kind of swelling and bruising can I expect? – Swelling and bruising are normal signs of the healing process. They occur after any surgery to varying degrees. Swelling peaks at about 48 hours, and then rapidly decreases. By the end of the first few weeks, the majority of the swelling is gone. By 6-8 weeks, most of the swelling has diminished.
What restrictions are there? – Generally, you can shower in 1-2 days after surgery, but you should not submerge incisions in the bath, hot-tub, or swimming pool for 2-3 weeks. The first day after surgery is usually spent lying in bed or sitting in a chair. Most patients then begin walking around the house the day after surgery. By the end of the first week, you will probably be ready to leave the house for short trips and light walks. Vigorous activities should not be performed until 6 weeks after surgery. Also, you shouldn’t do any heavy lifting (over 10 pounds) during these 6 weeks.
These are only general guidelines, and Dr. Brown will give you more specific instructions at your consultation.
When can I travel? – You should wait to travel by air or long distances until after your first post-operative visit, which generally happens 5-7 days after surgery. Patients who are at high risk for developing a blood clot should not travel until instructed by Dr. Brown. Short car trips under 60 minutes can be done before the first visit. A good rule of thumb is when you are off the stronger pain medication and can get up without assistance you are ready to go for a short drive. You should not drive the car yourself, until your surgeon gives you clearance for this.
What if I have a problem? When should I call the office? – We always welcome calls from patients. If you have any concerns at any time, please feel free to contact our office. If it is an emergency, the answering service is available 24 hours a day, including weekends and holidays.