Skin cancer can happen to anyone. Even if you’ve been rigorously applying your sunblock, staying out of the sunlight, avoiding tanning beds, and wearing all the right clothing — it can still affect you. With skin cancer natural treatment often comes surgery to ensure all of the cancer has been removed.
If you or someone you love has or will undergo surgery for skin cancer, there’s a healing process to keep in mind. Let’s first dive into what skin cancer is, what happens during surgery, and how you can best prepare yourself for healing afterwards to avoid it from returning.
As with all things, knowledge is power and knowing what to expect after skin cancer surgery is a crucial part of recovery.
What Happens During Skin Cancer Surgery?
If you’ve been diagnosed with basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer, surgery is a common treatment. Your surgical procedure options will depend on the type of cancer, where it’s located on your body, and how large it is. Here are some of the ways skin cancer is typically removed.1
During a surgical excision, the skin is numbed with a local anesthetic, the tumor is cut out with a surgical knife, and the remaining skin is stitched back together. Left to heal on its own, an excision will leave a scar.
2. Curettage and Electrodesiccation
With this treatment, a doctor will use a curette to remove the cancer. A curette is a long, thin instrument with a sharp looped edge that acts as a scraper. After this tool is used, the area is treated with an electric needle called an electrode that destroys the remaining cancer cells. Like a surgical excision, this will leave a scar. It’s typically used for basal and squamous cell cancers that are superficial — or, confined to the top layer of the skin.
3. Mohs Surgery
Also known as Mohs micrographic surgery or MMS, Mohs surgery is occasionally used when there is a high risk of the cancer returning after treatment, when the exact extent of the cancer is unknown, or when there is a goal to save skin (like in cancers near the face or fingers). During this procedure, a Mohs surgeon will remove a thin layer of skin then examine it under a microscope. If cancerous cells are found, additional layers will be removed until the samples are free of cancer cells.
4. Lymph Node Surgery
With squamous or basal cell skin cancer where the lymph nodes are enlarged, a doctor might want to do a biopsy to check for cancer cells. A lymph node dissection might be necessary so that they can then be analyzed for further signs of cancer.
How to Heal After Skin Cancer Surgery
When it comes to what to expect after skin cancer surgery, there are a variety of factors at play that impact scarring and recovery. Everyone’s skin is different — from the color and thickness to its elasticity — all of which affect the healing process. Here are a few different ways that healing after skin cancer surgery will happen. 2
1. Natural Healing
One of the many incredible things about the human body is its ability to heal itself. Natural healing after skin cancer surgery is possible for wound locations that are small like the ear or top of the scalp. As it heals naturally, the soft skin tissue around the wound contracts and closes, therefore creating less visible scars than stitches.
When the wound is too large to heal on its own, the next simplest procedure calls for using stitches to bind the wound together. Depending on how deep the skin cancer was, either a single layer or multiple layers of stitches on top of one another are used. If the cancer was deep, the layered stitches will help the muscle and fat to grow together in the right way. Stitches are considered a surgical reconstruction, as the skill level of the surgeon influences the outcome. Reconstructive surgeons consider everything from where the skin is pulled, at one angle, and the direction of the stitches as they coincide with natural lines of the skin.
3. Skin Graft
Skin grafts are an option when a wound is too large to pull it shut without impacting the surrounding skin tissue. With a skin graft, a surgeon takes flesh from one area of the body and grafts it to the surgery site or cuts into the surrounding skin to attach it to the surgery site. When this happens, the skin lays down new “roots” or blood vessels which allows the skin to heal.
4. Post-Surgical Care
The tips and tricks for wound healing after skin cancer surgery (once the natural healing, stitches, or skin grafts are complete) vary from physician to physician. Keep in mind there are different types of scars, each with their own unique set of characteristics. Some scars can be darker than others or appear more raised or puffy. Some scars will become lighter over time or be seemingly invisible after the skin surgery. Here are some natural remedies for post-operative care that have proven effective for different types of scars. 3
- Aloe vera
- Vitamin E
- Coconut oil
- Apple cider vinegar
- Lavender oil
- Olive oil
- Rosehip oil
- Frankincense oil
- Baking soda
Antioxidants for Skin Cancer Recovery
Just as it can be seen as a tool for skin cancer prevention, food is also an important part of skin cancer removal surgery recovery. To feel good from the inside out, fuel your skin cells with these wholesome ingredients. Exposure to UV rays generates free radicals in the body, which cause inflammation and can lead to cancer developing again. To defend yourself against damage from free radicals and the chain reaction they cause — load up on the following antioxidants. 5
- Vitamin E helps prevent damage from free radicals and also absorbs energy from UV light. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and improves the skin’s protective barrier.
- Vitamin C boasts properties that make it toxic to cancer cells.
- Vitamin D helps the immune system and reduces cancer risk.
- Beta-carotene and Zinc also boost the immune system and its ability to fight disease.
- Selenium is said to reduce the risk of several cancers.
- Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and inhibit the growth of skin cancers.
- Lycopene protects skin against further sun damage.
- Polyphenols can help repair DNA that’s been damaged by UV rays and also have anti-inflammatory and tumor-inhibiting properties.
Foods to Eat
If you’re looking for foods to add to your grocery list for skin cancer removal recovery, these will have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being. The best diet for melanoma and other skin cancers is the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in plants and antioxidants. 5
Remember that eating well and staying hydrated is a crucial aspect of not just your physical health, but your mental health, too. Fuel your body, your mind, and your spirit with wholesome foods that give you energy and keep you on the road to natural recovery.
- Go for carrots, squash, cantaloupe, apricots, and mango, which are all rich in beta-carotene.
- Get your lycopene from tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit.
- Enjoy fatty fish like salmon, herring, and albacore tuna, which contain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D (walnuts and flaxseed are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly for vegetarians).
- Look for fortified milk and orange juice with vitamin D.
- Have an afternoon cup of green or black tea to get a dose of polyphenols.
- Snack on Brazil nuts for selenium or make chicken or grass-fed beef.
- Get your vitamin C intake with oranges, lemons, raspberries, broccoli, and leafy greens.
- Stocks up on almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, and wheat germ for vitamin e.
- Incorporate zinc into your diet with things like lamb, shellfish, legumes, and beef.
Holistic Road to Recovery
Whether you’re going through the process of preparing for skin cancer surgery or are in the process of skin cancer removal recovery, Immunity Therapy Center is here to help. From small changes in your diet to natural remedies for skin cancer, each part of recovery is as important as the next.
We know that wound healing after cancer surgery is a tough part of the journey, and making sure that skin cancer is completely gone is important. At Immunity Therapy Center, we’ve dedicated ourselves to offering natural and effective ways to fight all types of cancer. We’re a leader in holistic skin cancer treatment and it’s our mission to help patients through every step — from treatment to healing.
- cancer.org. Surgery for Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/basal-and-squamous-cell-skin-cancer/treating/surgery.html
- curetoday.com. Keeping Up Appearances: Minimizing Scarring After Skin Cancer Surgery https://www.curetoday.com/articles/keeping-up-appearances-minimizing-scarring-after-skin-cancer-surgery
- healthline.com. How to Get Rid of Old Scars: Top 10 Remedies https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-old-scars#takeaway
- skincanger.org. Skin Cancer 101 https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/
- skincancer.net. Skin Cancer Prevention: Add These Foods to Your Diet https://skincancer.net/life-with-skin-cancer/prevention-add-foods-diet/
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.