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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 the doctor 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 afterward. 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.

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

  • If you are having your skin lesion removed in a hospital or surgery centre, 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 a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • 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.

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.

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?

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