Excision of Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Excision of non-melanoma skin cancer is a treatment to remove, or excise, basal cell and squamous cell cancers (carcinomas) from your skin. Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the skin.

Most cases of these types of cancer can be cured if they are found and removed early. If the cancer is not completely removed, it may come back.

The doctor uses medicine to numb the area around the cancer. Then he or she cuts out the cancer along with small amount of healthy skin around it. The wound is most often closed with stitches.

The procedure takes about 30 minutes. You will probably go home soon after. You may have a scar. The scar should fade with time.

The tissue that was removed will be sent to a lab to be looked at under a microscope. This is done to confirm if the tissue is skin cancer and if all of it was removed.

When you find out that you have cancer, you may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counsellors for support. You also can do things at home to make yourself feel better while you go through treatment. Call the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) or visit its website at www.cancer.ca for more information.

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 can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor told you how to care for your wound, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash around the wound with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
    • You may cover the wound with a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, and a non-stick bandage.
    • Apply more petroleum jelly and replace the bandage as needed.
  • If you had stitches, your doctor will tell you when to come back to have them removed.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness near the wound.
    • Red streaks leading from the wound.
    • Pus draining from the wound.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You see a change in your skin, such as a growth or mole that:
    • Grows bigger. This may happen slowly.
    • Changes colour.
    • Changes shape.
    • Starts to bleed easily.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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

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