Skin cancer surgery risks and safety information

The decision to have skin cancer surgery is extremely personal. Your physician will explain all of the potential risks. Your plastic surgeon and/or staff will explain in detail the risks associated with surgery. You will be asked to sign consent forms to ensure that you fully understand the procedure you will undergo, the alternatives and the most likely risks and potential complications.

Possible risks include:

  • Bleeding (hematoma)
  • Infection
  • Poor healing of incisions
  • Anesthesia risks
  • Unfavorable scarring
  • Frozen-section inaccuracy
  • Recurrence of skin cancer
  • Systemic spread of skin cancer
  • Change in skin sensation
  • Skin contour irregularities
  • Skin discoloration/swelling
  • Allergies to tape, suture materials and glues, blood products, topical preparations or injected agents
  • Damage to deeper structures — such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and lungs — can occur and may be temporary or permanent
  • Pain, which may persist
  • Possibility of revisional surgery

Be sure to ask questions: It’s very important to ask your plastic surgeon questions about your procedure. It’s natural to feel some anxiety; don’t be shy about discussing these feelings with your plastic surgeon.

Other important considerations:

Skin grafts have an added risk that the graft will not “take” and therefore additional surgery may be necessary to close the wound.

Preserve your health: Once you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, you are at a higher risk to develop another skin cancer than the general population. Skin cancer also can reoccur. So, it’s important to discuss the signs of skin cancer with your physician, regularly perform self-examinations for suspicious lesions, and schedule an annual skin cancer screening.

Be careful

Following your physician's instructions is key to the success of your surgery. It is important that the surgical incisions are no subjected to excessive force, abrasion or motion during the time of healing. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself.