What is excision of melanoma skin cancer?

Excision of Melanoma Skin Cancer
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Melanoma excision surgery: Overview

Surgery to remove (excise) a melanoma removes the entire melanoma along with a border (margin) of normal-appearing skin. The width of the border of normal skin removed depends on the depth of the melanoma. More tissue, usually skin and fat, is also removed from under the melanoma.

  • Small excisions may be closed with stitches and heal without problems.
  • Large excisions or those located on the hands, face, or feet may require a skin graft to close the wound after surgery.

The type of anesthetic used for your surgery depends on the size and location of the melanoma. Surgery on small, easily reached melanomas may require only a local anesthetic. Surgery for larger melanomas may require general anesthesia.

How can you care for your teen after melanoma excision surgery?


  • If your teen has stitches, check with the doctor about when your teen can do normal activities.
  • If your teen has a skin graft, your doctor will give you specific instructions.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your teen can restart any medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about any new medicines.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your teen a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your teen is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your teen can take an over-the-counter medicine.

Incision care

  • Your teen will have a dressing over the incision. A dressing helps it heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
  • Have your teen keep the dressing intact and dry until the doctor says it's okay to get the area wet.
  • Have your teen follow the doctor's instructions about when it's okay to shower or bathe.
  • If your teen has stitches, the doctor will tell you when to come back to have them removed.
  • If your teen has a skin graft, leave the bandages on the skin graft and donor site until the doctor says you can take them off. You probably will get instructions on how to change the bandages. Follow these instructions closely.
  • If your teen has a skin graft, help your teen protect the area from being rubbed or bumped for 3 to 4 weeks.

How well does melanoma excision surgery work?

Surgery to remove the melanoma usually cures melanoma if it is found early. Surgery and other treatments may be needed if cancer is found in the nearby lymph nodes.

Surgery may be used as part of the treatment for metastatic melanoma. In certain cases, surgery can help with long-term survival. And surgery may help relieve symptoms.

How do you prepare for melanoma excision surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • If you are having your skin lesion removed in a hospital or surgery center, be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don’t have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It’s a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What are the risks of melanoma excision surgery?

Risks of surgery to remove melanoma include:

  • Infection.
  • Scarring.
  • Bleeding.
  • Rejection of the skin graft.

What can you expect as you recover from melanoma excision surgery?

Recovery after surgery to remove a melanoma depends upon the site and extent of surgery. The wound may take longer to heal if reconstructive surgery techniques such as skin grafts are used.

After your teen's melanoma excision surgery: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your teen may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your teen passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your teen is short of breath.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your teen has pain that does not get better after taking pain medicine.
  • Your teen has loose stitches, or the wound comes open.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over your teen's incision.
  • Your teen can't pass stools or gas.
  • Your teen is sick to the stomach or can't drink fluids.
  • Your teen has signs of a blood clot in a leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Swelling in the leg or groin.
    • A color change on the leg or groin. The skin may be reddish or purplish, depending on your usual skin color.
  • Your teen has symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your teen's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

After melanoma excision surgery: Overview

Excision of a melanoma is a type of surgery to remove, or excise, a melanoma from your skin. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer in which abnormal skin cells grow out of control.

You may have stitches until the surgical wound heals. This may cause a scar that should fade with time. How quickly your wound heals depends on its size. Most wounds take 1 to 3 weeks to heal. If a large area of skin was removed, you may have a skin graft. In that case, healing may take longer.

Some soreness around the site of the wound is normal. Your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter medicine or give you a prescription to help if you have pain.

Your doctor may give you specific instructions on when you can do your normal activities again, such as driving and going back to work.

Why is melanoma excision surgery done?

Surgery is the most common treatment for melanoma. Sometimes lymph nodes may be removed at the same time to check them for cancer. Surgery also may be done to remove lymph nodes that have cancer or to remove tumors that may have spread to other parts of the body.

Melanoma Excision: Melanoma

Picture of melanoma

Melanoma that is found early, or before it has spread, usually can be completely removed with surgery (excision).

What happens on the day of your melanoma excision surgery?

  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.