Healing after skin cancer surgery: how long does it take to recover?

  • skin cancer surgery cairns,

What’s the most common type of plastic surgery our plastic surgeons in Cairns perform?

It may surprise you to learn that skin cancer surgery is right up the top of the list!

When you think about it however, it starts to make sense.

After all, two out of three Australians will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer – combined with the far north’s powerful sun, and it’s little wonder that there’s demand for skin cancer surgery in Cairns.

Luckily, early detection of skin cancer makes it highly treatable. In many cases, removing the growth early on can be all you need to do to protect yourself – and that’s where a plastic surgeon comes into the picture.

This blog details the process that follows skin cancer removal surgery. From recovery to skincare, we hope the information below answers some of the questions you may have after skin cancer surgery in Cairns.

If you have more questions or queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team today. We are here to support you every step of the way, long beyond your procedure and all the way through your recovery.

1) How long does it take to recover from skin cancer surgery?

In a previous blog, we already discussed how skin cancer treatments work. Specifically, we discussed skin cancer surgery as well as how non-surgical methods can also be used in your treatment.

The most common non-melanoma skin cancers – usually Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – are unlikely to spread and if they do, will eventually spread slowly.

When these types of growth are detected, skin cancer surgery is used to remove it before it spreads. Depending on the circumstances however, non-surgical methods may be used.

We’d be covering a lot of the same ground, so we aren’t going to spend too much time repeating ourselves. What we didn’t get to talk about however is the recovery process.

Since these growths are close to the surface of your skin, our plastic surgeons in Cairns usually won’t have to make any deep incisions.

As a result, the recovery process following skin cancer surgery tends to be much quicker than other procedures.

Instead, you’ll only have to wait a couple of weeks for your skin to heal – it’s rare for the healing process to take more than a month.

How many weeks exactly will depend on a number of factors, however…

2) What happens to my skin after skin cancer surgery?

After surgically removing a cancerous growth, you can expect visible scars to form at the incision during the process.

However, that isn’t the only thing that happens to your skin. Additionally, you may experience variations in skin colour and skin texture following skin treatment. Some patients report that following surgery, the skin around the area doesn’t:

  • Generate oil
  • Sweat
  • Grow hair

If you ask us however, all of these changes in the appearance of your skin are well worth having any cancerous growths in your skin successfully removed!

Following your surgery, you’ll recieve specific instructions from your surgeon on post-operative care and how to handle swelling and abrasion in the process. Be sure to follow these to the letter in order to make your recovery as swift as possible.

3) How long does it take to heal and recover?

Answer: it depends!

Specifically, it depends on the type of surgical procedure needed to remove the cancerous growth. For example, if the surgery is the removal of melanoma or the excision of abnormal skin cells, wounds may take 1-3 weeks to heal. 

Another factor that comes into play is the size of the scar – if a larger skin area needs to be removed, healing may even take longer.

And finally, there’s the question of how well you follow your surgeon’s post operative care regime. These plans are created to minimise discomfort and reduce the risk of complications – so we encourage you to follow them.

skin cancer treatment cairns

4) How healing happens after skin cancer treatment: the role your skin itself plays

Thickness, elasticity and colour of your skin… all of these may affect the healing process, and how quickly your body bounces back following skin cancer surgery.

Normally, the body will do a pretty incredible job of healing itself. Depending on which part of your body the skin cancer surgery is performed, it’s possible you’ll be left with very subtle scars.

In other cases however, it could be the opposite.

Suppose the cancerous area is large and deep. In that case, you can expect multiple layers of stitches around the surgical area on top of the other – this is usually considered a surgical reconstruction process.

Skin grafts may be used in these situations – this is when a surgeon takes a part of your flesh from one area and grafts it on the surgery site. Over time, the skin lays down new “roots” and blood vessels allowing the skin to heal and leaving you with a seamless appearance.

5) How to take care of your skin after surgery

Post-surgical care is very important after plastic surgery – skin surgery is no exception.

That’s why post-surgery, we’ll create for you a long, comprehensive aftercare plan to ensure that your recovery is smooth and free of complications. These plans will focus on:

  • Minimising swelling
  • Reducing scarring
  • Preventing infection
  • Reducing pain and discomfort

How closely you follow these processes and recommendations determines the overall success of the reconstruction process. The surgery itself could be a success, but that might not mean much if you take poor care of it and you end up getting an infection, or slowing down your recovery.

You’ll want to keep an eye out for the tell-tale signs of infection:

  • Redness and swelling
  • Pus or bleeding on the wound
  • Extreme pain
  • A bad smell

What helps skin after skin cancer removal?

Your recovery plan is totally unique, and your plastic surgeon is with you every step of the way. They will prescribe a tailored recovery plan designed to meet your unique circumstances. However, there are a few things you can do yourself in order to maximise a positive and effective recovery.

A healthy and nourishing diet

One place where it starts is with your diet. We’ll recommend food that strengthens your immune system, repairs any skin damage, and prevents infection.

As part of your recovery plan, our plastic surgeons will recommend a diet that’s rich in food that encourages recovery.

How do you treat a wound after skin cancer surgery?

Keep it clean

Taking care of your wound after surgery is also very important in protecting it from any infection. As a general rule, you will need to clean the wounded area and change the bandage every day.

Don’t worry, you won’t need to put skin cleansers, soaps, and alcohol on your skin (in fact, that probably isn’t a good idea, as it may cause skin damage and delay healing). Washing the area with water, keeping it dry and covering it with clean gauze or cloth can do the trick.

Routine changes

And finally, you may also need to limit your physical activities so as not to open the wound and cause bleeding. You also need to cut out as many activities as possible that may contribute to infection.

Your surgeon may recommend cutting out sport and strenuous exercise, as this can aggravate the wound and slow down recovery. We’ll also talk to you about finding accommodations to reduce the physical pressure you might face when you return to work.

It’s annoying, we know – however, changing your routine can make all the difference when it comes to speeding up your recovery!

Can you go back to work after skin cancer surgery?

Provided there are no complications, you may be able to resume low-impact activity such as work after a few days. You may need to stay home for up to a week, so if you can work from home, this may resume after a few days.

Call Dr Isolde Hertess and the team at Cairns Plastic Surgery

Who said plastic surgery was only for cosmetic work?

Whether it’s a skin check or skin cancer surgery, our plastic surgery team is here to protect your skin from this invisible killer. Cairns Plastic Surgery provides effective skin treatments and skin cancer solutions to the people of sunny Cairns.

Our focus is on the experience – we know that it’s a potentially scary and confusing time for you.

That’s why we make it our mission to set your mind at ease, and ensure that you’re fully-informed about what you’re about to undergo.

Take care of your skin by booking a skin check or talking to our QLD plastic surgery team about your skin cancer surgery concerns. Dr Isolde Hertess and the friendly team at Cairns Plastic Surgery are more than happy to help you out!

Contact us for a skin check and trust only a skin expert at Cairns. Book your next check-up or call (07) 4031 5755 today.