Skin Cancer Post-Surgery Instructions
TYPICAL POST-OPERATIVE SYMPTOMS
Typical symptoms and signs to watch for following surgery include the following:
Tingling, burning, redness, tightness at the surgical site. These are normal experiences as the skin, tissues and sensory nerves heal. Pain medication will help you cope with any discomfort. Consistent sharp pain should be reported to our office immediately. You may also feel minor discomfort at the graft donor site, if you had your own skin grafted to repair the defect.
Shiny skin or any itchy feeling: Swelling can cause the skin to appear shiny. As the healing process advances, you may also find a mild to severe itchy feeling at the scar revision or any graft donor site. An antihistamine can help to alleviate severe, constant itchiness. If the skin becomes red and hot to the touch, contact our office immediately.
CALL THE OFFICE IMMEDIATELY IF YOU EXPERIENCE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
- A high fever over 38.5 degrees centigrade.
- Any pain that cannot be controlled by your pain medication.
- Bright red skin that is hot to the touch.
- Excessive bleeding or fluid seeping through the incisions.
- A severely misshapen or swollen appearance at the wound site.
To alleviate any discomfort, and to reduce swelling, you may apply cool, not cold compresses to the wound site. Crushed ice or ice packs must be wrapped in a towel before being applied to the skin. Do not apply ice or anything frozen directly to the skin. Apply cool compresses for no longer than 20-minute intervals.
2-7 Days following Surgery
During this time you will feel better with each day that passes. Ease into your daily activities.
- Continue to cleanse wounds as directed; you may shower. Take a warm, not hot shower. Do not take a bath. Do not remove any steri-strips. Do not rub your incisions. Apply any compression as directed.
- Take medications as directed. Pain medication such as paracetamol should ease your discomfort.
- Proper sun protection is vital. You must not allow direct or indirect sun exposure to your wounds. Wear protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and at least an SPF 30 if you must be outdoors.
- Do not resume any exercise other than regular walking.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Do not smoke. Do not consume alcohol.
1-4 Weeks following Surgery
- As you resume your normal daily activities, you must continue proper care.
- Discomfort or tightness and tingling will resolve.
- Continue wound care as directed. Any dressings were removed at your first post-operative visit. You may now start using chloramphenicol ointment or paraffin on the incision 2 times daily, and start some gentle scar massage.
- Ease into your fitness routine. Avoid aerobic exercise that may stress or stretch the skin in the area of your scar revision.
- Do not smoke. While incisions may have sealed, smoking deprives your body of necessary oxygen that can result in poorly healed, wide, raised scars. For your long-term health, there is no need to resume smoking.
- Practice good sun protection. Do not expose your skin to direct sunlight. If you are outdoors, apply at least an SPF 30 at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and wear protective clothing. Your skin is highly susceptible to sunburn or the formation or irregular, darkened pigmentation.
Your First year
- Continue healthy nutrition, fitness, and sun protection.
- Your scars will continue to refine. You may massage the scars with hand lotion (e.g. Vitamin E cream or Bio-oil) or scar treatments (e.g. Dermatex), starting at 3 weeks after the procedure. This should be performed 3 times daily for several minutes each time for the first year after the surgery. If the scars become raised, red or thickened, or appear to widen, contact our office. Scars are generally refined to fine lines one year after surgery.