Melanoma surgery removes the cancer and a border of normal tissue around it. You may require a second procedure to remove more normal skin around the area of the tumour. This depends on the size and stage of the melanoma and the amount of normal tissue removed at biopsy. If the melanoma has spread to lymph nodes, surgery may remove some or all of the lymph nodes in the area of the tumour. If a large amount of skin is removed, there may not be enough skin to close the incision. In this situation, the surgeon may use a graft, or patch of skin from another area of your body, to cover the area.
Surgery Side Effects
Surgery may result in pain and swelling. These symptoms usually go away within a few weeks. Scars are permanent side effects of surgery. They generally fade with time. If lymph nodes are removed, lymph fluid may collect and cause swelling. This swelling is called lymphedema. Lymphedema may occur soon after surgery or much later. Talk to your treatment team if you are having bothersome side effects after surgery, or in certain cases, to effectively manage or reduce issues of lymphedema.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- What surgery do you recommend for me? Why?
- What is involved in the surgery?
- Do I need to stay in the hospital?
- Will I have pain after the surgery? How will you manage my pain?
- Am I likely to need antibiotics to prevent infection?
- What problems do I need to watch for after surgery?
- Will there be a scar?
- Are there any long-term side effects?
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Managing Lymphedema for the Melanoma Patient Guide
A leading national resource written with the help of specialists in lymphedema