How to prepare for skin cancer surgery

If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, your doctor may decide that surgery is the best course of treatment for your tumour. In conjunction with your doctor’s expert advice, here is what you need to know to prepare for your skin cancer surgery procedure.


Do I need to fast?

Surgery under local anaesthetic requires minimal preparation. You do not need to fast before your procedure.


Can I drive home?

You are legally able to drive home after your procedure. However, if you are having a complex procedure (such as a complicated flap or graft) that may compromise your safety or optimal outcome of the surgery (for example, on the eye, face, arm or lower leg), then it is best to arrange for someone to drive you home.


What to do before the procedure

  • Please have a shower prior to your procedure and ensure the area is clean and free of make-up and moisturisers.
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothing and slip-on shoes.
  • Continue all prescribed medication.
  • To further reduce the chances of bleeding and complications, avoid alcohol for three days before and three days after your surgery, and try to stop smoking.


On the day of your procedure

  • Arrive 10 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment time.
  • Aim to have an empty bladder prior to surgery.
  • A nurse will escort you to an operating theatre.
  • Your doctor will inject the local anaesthetic which will sting a little.
  • The area will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution. It is important that you do not touch this area. Let the doctor or nurse know if you need to move or scratch and they will ensure the area is kept sterile.
  • During surgery you may feel pulling or tugging but you will not feel pain.
  • The wound will be sutured and cleaned, and dressings will be applied.
  • An appointment will be made for you to come back and have your sutures removed. You will then also receive the pathology results.


How to prepare for a bigger surgical procedure

  • When booking your procedure, be mindful of any upcoming social events (e.g. weddings) as some procedures may cause bruising.
  • Consider taking time off work and arrange for someone to drive you home.
  • Organise help around the house as you will need to rest for an extended period.
  • Prepare meals in advance so you can avoid long periods of standing.
  • Take Panadol or Panadeine only. Avoid Aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs as these will cause bleeding.
  • Return for dressing changes or wound inspections.


If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or contact your care team.

Download your guide to preparing for surgery.