Healthcare: Cancer Care

Wide Local Excision

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Wide local excision

Surgery to remove (excise) melanoma removes the cancer and a border of healthy tissue. In the "Area of excision" picture:

The inner circle represents the melanoma and healthy tissue that are excised. An eye-shaped incision (cut) is often done so that the surgical site can be neatly closed.

If the excision is small, the skin may be closed with stitches after surgery. The "After surgery" picture shows the usual shape of the scar after surgery to remove a small melanoma.

If the excision is large, a skin graft may be needed.

Other ways of removing a melanoma can leave a round scar or a scar shaped a little like the letter "Z."


How can you care for yourself after a melanoma excision?



If you have stitches, check with your doctor about when you can do your normal activities. If you have a skin graft, avoid exercise that stretches the skin graft for at least 3 weeks after surgery, unless your doctor gives you other instructions.


Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.

If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.

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.

Wound care

You will have a dressing over the wound. A dressing helps the wound heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.

If you have stitches, your doctor will tell you when to come back to have them removed.

If you have a skin graft, your doctor will tell you how to change the bandages and when you don’t need them anymore.

Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don’t use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing.You may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery. Pat the wound dry. Do not take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.If you have a skin graft, don’t rub it for 3 to 4 weeks.

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