Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Melanoma Excision: Before Your Surgery
Facebook Tweet Email Share

Main Content

Melanoma Excision: Before Your Surgery

What is excision of a melanoma?

Excision of a melanoma is a type of surgery to remove, or excise, a melanoma from your skin. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer in which abnormal skin cells grow out of control.

The doctor first gives you medicine to numb the area. Then he or she cuts out the melanoma along with an area of healthy skin around it. How much healthy skin is needed depends on how deep in the skin the melanoma is. Small excisions are usually closed with stitches. A larger excision, or one on the hand or face, may need a skin graft to close the wound. A skin graft is a very thin sheet of healthy skin taken from another part of the body to replace the skin that was removed.

The surgery usually takes up to an hour. You will probably go home soon afterwards. You may have a scar. The scar should fade with time.

If you have a skin graft, the surgery may take longer. You will probably go home 1 to 2 hours later.

You may need other tests and treatments, depending on how large or deep the melanoma is.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter X350 in the search box to learn more about "Melanoma Excision: Before Your Surgery".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.