Preparing for skin cancer surgery? Here’s what you need to know.

Have you been diagnosed with skin cancer and need to undergo surgery? Skin cancer surgery is performed under local anaesthetic and requires minimal preparation, but there are some important steps you can take to get ready for your procedure and optimise your recovery.

Surgical tools1. Understand why you need surgery

There are many therapies available to treat skin cancer, including non-surgical methods including cryotherapy (freezing), cautery (burning), and topical creams. The most common treatment is surgery, as this cuts away the cancerous lesion and some surrounding tissue to completely remove the cancer from your body. This is usually enough to cure skin cancer, unless it has spread to other organs.

The treatment you receive will depend on the type of skin cancer you have and how advanced it is; a more serious case will require more aggressive treatment. It is very important that you follow your doctor's treatment recommendations and start your therapy as soon as possible, as delayed treatment can result in severe disfigurement and scarring. In some cases, skin cancer that is left untreated can spread to other parts of the body and be fatal.

Learn more about skin cancer treatments.

2. Make post-surgery arrangements

When you undergo skin cancer surgery, you are allowed to drive home afterwards. However, it is best to arrange for someone to drive you home if you are having a complex procedure that may compromise your safety or jeopardise the optimal outcome of the surgery. Examples of this include procedures on the eye, face, arm or lower leg, or procedures involving complicated flaps or skin grafts.

When booking your appointment, be mindful of any upcoming social events such as weddings, as some procedures may cause bruising. If you are having bigger surgery, consider taking time off work and organise for someone to help around the house as you will need to rest for an extended period. You may also like to prepare meals in advance so you can avoid long periods of standing.

3. Be prepared on the day

You do not need to fast before your surgery. Continue to take all your prescribed medications and avoid alcohol for three days before and three days after your surgery to reduce your chances of bleeding and complications. If you smoke, it is also advised that you try to stop.

On the day of your surgery, take a shower and ensure your skin is clean and free of make-up and moisturisers. Dress in loose and comfortable clothing and wear slip-on shoes that are quick to put on and take off.

4. Look after yourself post-surgery

After your procedure, take Panadol or Panadeine for pain relief if you need it. Avoid Aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs as these will cause bleeding. Remember to return for dressing changes or wound inspections if you have been advised to do so.

Download surgery preparation information sheet.


Please note that the content of this blog does not replace the advice of a medical professional. This blog is intended as a guide only to assist in skin cancer surgery preparation, and is superseded by any instructions from your doctor. If you need medical advice, speak to your doctor.