Scars and Skin Cancer: What to Know
Surgery is the most common form of treatment for skin cancer. Because nonmelanoma skin cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body, it is highly curable. In fact, it is often possible for a surgeon to remove all traces of skin cancer from a patient’s body.
Of course, any type of surgery leaves a scar. Many scars fade considerably within a few years, but most do not disappear completely. Researchers have recently identified new ways for surgeons to minimize the scarring that results from skin cancer surgery. However, scarring is also influenced by the body’s natural healing response, which can vary significantly among individuals.
Many factors can affect the body’s natural repair processes. For instance, a good blood supply to the surgical site is essential for proper healing. That’s because blood circulation carries a variety of nutrients and minerals throughout the body to promote cell growth and healthy organ function. To promote circulation, it’s essential to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, stay well-hydrated, manage stress and avoid tobacco use.
Additionally, to aid healing and achieve the best possible scar outcome after skin cancer surgery, it’s important to:
- Follow all post-operative instructions, such as regularly removing the surgical dressing, washing the wound with plain soap and water, applying ointment to keep it moist and covering it with a protective bandage
- Limit physical activity to avoid stretching the wound as it heals
- Protect the scar from sun exposure, which can cause it to permanently darken
- Apply an over-the-counter silicone patch, gel or Vaseline after any sutures are removed, which may help reduce the thickness of the scar.
- Watch for signs of infection, such as increasing redness, oozing, warmth and tenderness around the wound, and report them promptly to a physician
When you discuss your skin cancer treatment plan with your surgeon, be sure to mention any concerns that you have about scarring. Your surgeon can give you an idea of how much scarring to expect and how to minimize it, especially if your surgical site is clearly visible and you are concerned about the appearance of your scar.
The skin cancer surgeons in the Cutaneous Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center are among the most experienced and respected in the nation. Additionally, after skin cancer surgery, our patients can benefit from our long-term monitoring and follow-up services, which are designed to detect signs of recurrence as soon as they occur and ensure the best possible outcome and quality of life.