Skin Cancer Surgery
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer worldwide. It may affect people of all races and colors, although patients with lighter skin are at highest risk. Other risk factors include a personal history of sunburns, the use of tanning beds, immunosuppression, and a family history of skin cancers.
The most common types of skin cancers are:
- basal cell carcinoma
- squamous cell carcinoma
Several treatment options are available for skin cancer and depend on type, location, and size. Complete removal of skin cancer may leave a sizable defect that requires reconstructive surgery to obtain favorable functional and cosmetic outcomes. Dr. Chung has significant expertise in skin cancer excision and reconstruction, having served as the Chief of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Stratton Veteran’s Hospital in Albany, New York and collaborated with her many dermatology colleagues. Dr. Chung has removed and reconstructed several thousand skin cancers defects.
What happens during the initial consultation for a skin cancer?
During the initial consultation, Dr. Chung will review the size, location, and type of your skin cancer. For certain basal and squamous cell carcinomas, she may recommend surgical reconstruction after Mohs excision is performed by one of her dermatology colleagues. Mohs surgery is a procedure that removes skin cancer using a microscope to define which tissue needs to be removed for a safe and precise excision. Dr. Chung works closely with many Mohs surgeons in a team-based approach. Dr. Chung will then discuss the possible reconstructive options, reviewing the placement of scars and discussing likely outcomes. Her office will then make arrangements for the cancer excision and reconstruction. The procedure is usually performed in the office but in some instances, depending on the complexity of the reconstruction, Dr. Chung may recommend that you have your surgery in the hospital.
What happens during the skin cancer surgery?
During the procedure, Dr. Chung will mark out the skin cancer, taking into account the appropriate margins as well as the important adjacent structures of the face. The procedure is usually performed in the office under local anesthesia. If Dr. Chung is removing the skin cancer, she will send the lesion to a pathology lab for full diagnostic evaluation; otherwise, you will have the skin cancer removed by a Mohs surgeon. Using advanced reconstructive techniques, Dr. Chung will then rearrange the skin to close the defect, optimizing the cosmetic outcomes. Tiny stitches and a bandage will then be placed.
What is the recovery like?
Immediately after surgery, there may be some mild swelling, bruising, and mild discomfort. You will need to keep the incision covered and dry for a few days. After 2-3 days, you can usually remove the bandages and take a shower. The stitches are removed in 5-7 days.
What will I look like?
The incision may be slightly pink for a few weeks, but there will be continued improvement for several months. In efforts to minimize visible scars and avoid other troubling lesions, Dr. Chung will direct you on proper wound care with scar creams and sun protection; she will also encourage you to keep up with your routine skin checks with your dermatologist.
“Young people need to know that they can significantly reduce their risk of getting skin cancer later if they start protecting their skin from the sun now.”