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Skin Cancer Surgery

Treatment Options

Surgery is the most common and successful form of treatment for skin cancer. Depending on the type of skin cancer present, you may require a surgical excision, or a surgical procedure involving plastic surgery to fully remove all cancer cells and minimise scarring.

Being diagnosed with skin cancer can be immensely challenging, both physically and psychologically. Treating skin cancer can result in major alterations to your body, such as scarring and the need for skin grafts. Skin cancer surgery is designed to help you overcome cancer while maintaining the form and function you enjoyed prior to diagnosis. If you have a skin cancer or premalignant mole or lesion contact us today to find out how Dr. Hamilton’s skin cancer treatment at our Adelaide clinic can benefit you.

If you require skin cancer surgery, contact Dr. Hamilton as soon as possible for an initial assessment, diagnosis and advice on the best method to remove all cancerous cells before they become advanced, or spread to other parts of the body. A referral letter from your GP or Dermatologist is required to obtain a consultation.

The Skin Cancer Surgery Procedure

Before surgery, you will have an in-depth consultation with Dr. Hamilton where he will examine the lesion carefully, check your skin generally and discuss your type of skin cancer and the treatment needed to remove the cancer. He will also ask about pre-existing medical conditions, any allergies, use of medications which may have a bearing upon the treatment, and what you can expect during and after treatment.

Before surgery, it is possible that you will be asked to stop smoking, and avoid aspirin and other blood thinning medications, and avoid anti-inflammatory drugs including over the counter preparations such as omega 3 fish oils, glucosamine and vitamins which can increase bleeding at surgery.

Preparing for Skin Cancer Surgery

Today, there are two predominant methods of skin cancer surgery. The first, for smaller skin cancers, is the traditional excision, or the removal of the cancerous lesion and some surrounding healthy tissue. This is usually followed by the closure of the wound with stitches if the adjacent skin is healthy and lax. If the skin is too tight to close such as in the nose, eyelid, ear or hand area, or too tight and frail, such as in the lower leg, a skin graft or skin flap may be required to close the wound.

With larger skin cancers in most areas of the body, the wound cannot be closed directly with stitches and Dr. Hamilton will proceed with reconstruction, using either a skin graft (healthy skin taken from another area of your body and transplanted to cover the wound) or by using healthy adjacent tissue (called a flap) to cover the wound. Stitches are used to secure the graft or flap in place. Whilst the prime objective is to remove all of the cancerous cells, attention is also given to making the scars as inconspicuous as possible.

Dr. Hamilton will have the lesion examined by a pathologist with whom he works closely. The pathologist will prepare the specimen and examine it in detail under the microscope to confirm the diagnosis (the type of skin cancer) and judge that that all cancerous cells are removed. The pathologists’ work is crucial to the outcome and any future treatment planning – it occurs in the background without patients actually interacting with him or her, but is a vital part of treatment.

Dr. Hamilton works closely with two pathologists; Dr. Jonathan Allin at Clinpath and Dr. Craig James at Adelaide Pathology Partners. These pathologists have many years of experience in diagnosis from examination of the tissues, and Dr. Hamilton relies heavily upon their unique skill.

In some cases based on the pathology report and Dr Hamilton’s astute clinical judgment, additional treatment such as further excision and occasionally radiation therapy may be necessary. Most skin cancers are removed under almost painless local anaesthesia but occasionally sedation or general anaesthesia is used for larger lesions. All surgery is conducted at Hamilton House Day Surgery with the assistance of Dr. Hamilton’s caring and highly trained nursing staff.

After Skin Cancer Surgery

Recovery time after skin cancer surgery is generally short. Most patients may return to light activity the day of surgery. You will likely receive instructions on how to manage the wound. It may take a few weeks to fully heal, and may take possibly up to a year for the scars to completely fade.

After healing is complete Dr Hamilton will undertake periodical skin checks to ensure that the lesion does not return locally or in the lymph glands. In certain cases Dr Hamilton may recommend scar revision treatment to improve scars, especially on the face. This can be carried out six to 12 months after surgery.

Risks of Skin Cancer Surgery

As with any surgery, there are risks involved in undergoing skin cancer surgery. The information contained on this website is of a general nature and is not a substitute for an in-depth consultation with Dr. Richard Hamilton. Dr. Hamilton will carefully explain these potential risks and complications to you in detail at the time of consultation.