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.
Understanding Skin Cancer Surgery
Skin cancer is a serious disease that affects millions of people worldwide, and there are different types of skin cancer. Other risk factors for skin cancer include a family history of the disease, a weakened immune system, and exposure to certain chemicals or substances. Skin cancer is typically treated with several procedures, such as surgical excision, curettage and electrodesiccation, Mohs surgery, and lymph node surgery. Surgical excision involves cutting out the cancerous tissue and stitching the remaining skin together, while curettage and electrodesiccation involves removing the cancer with a sharp instrument and using an electric needle to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
Curettage and electrodesiccation consists of using a sharp instrument to remove the cancer and then using an electric needle to eradicate any lingering cancerous cells. For Mohs surgery, layers of the skin are removed and studied under a microscope to ensure all malignant cells have been eliminated. Lymph node surgery may be necessary if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
1. Excision Surgery: What to Expect
During this procedure, the surgeon will numb the area with a local anesthetic and use a surgical knife to cut out the cancerous tissue. The remaining skin is then stitched back together. While this procedure will leave a scar, it is typically the most effective way to remove the cancerous cells completely. It is also the preferred method for removing melanoma, which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
2. Curettage and Electrodesiccation: How it Works
During this procedure, the doctor will use a curette, a long, thin instrument with a sharp looped edge, to scrape away the cancerous cells. Afterward, an electric needle called an electrode is used to destroy any remaining cancer cells. This method is typically used for basal and squamous cell cancers that are confined to the top layer of the skin. While this procedure will also leave a scar, it is a quick and effective way to remove cancerous cells. Alternative treatments for basal cell skin cancer may include natural remedies, dietary changes, and immune-boosting therapies.
3. Mohs Surgery: A Detailed Examination
Mohs surgery, also known as Mohs micrographic surgery, is a specialized procedure that is 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 as much skin as possible. During this procedure, the Mohs surgeon will remove a thin layer of skin and examine it under a microscope. If cancerous cells are found, additional layers will be removed until the samples are free of cancer cells. This process is repeated until all the cancerous cells have been removed. Mohs surgery is typically used for skin cancer on the face or fingers, where preserving as much healthy tissue as possible is critical.
4. Lymph Node Surgery: A Closer Look
Lymph node surgery is a procedure used to remove lymph nodes that may contain cancer cells. This procedure may be necessary for basal or squamous cell skin cancers that have spread to the lymph nodes. During this procedure, the surgeon will remove the lymph nodes and send them to a laboratory for further analysis. This procedure can help determine if the cancer has spread and if additional treatment is necessary.
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
Healing After Skin Cancer Surgery
Healing after skin cancer surgery is a unique and individualized experience. The recovery time and process will depend on various factors, including the type and extent of the surgery, the location of the cancer, and your overall health and age. 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.
2. Pain and discomfort
It is common to experience pain and discomfort following skin cancer surgery. This may include soreness, tenderness, and itching around the surgical site. Your doctor will provide pain relief medication and other measures to manage the discomfort.
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.
4. Swelling and Bruising
Swelling and bruising are also common after skin cancer surgery, especially around the eyes and face. These symptoms typically subside within a week or two.
5. 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. Skin graft can sometimes be mistaken as a wart, which may also lead to potential cancer concerns. When it comes to distinguishing between a wart vs skin cancer, it is important to understand the key differences between the two.
6. Restricted Movement
Restricted movement: If the surgery was performed on a limb, you may experience restricted movement and mobility. Physical therapy may be recommended to help restore your range of motion.
How to Care for the Wound After Skin Cancer Surgery
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: How Diet Can Help
Skin cancer natural treatments may include natural remedies, dietary changes, and immune-boosting therapies. Just as it can be seen as a tool for skin cancer prevention, one crucial aspect of recovery is consuming foods rich in antioxidants, which help protect against free radicals that can cause inflammation and lead to the development of cancer.
To feel good from the inside out, fuel your skin cells with these wholesome ingredients. One of the most common causes of skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. Exposure to UV rays generates free radicals in the body, which cause inflammation and can lead to cancer developing again.
Here are some of the antioxidants that are essential during skin cancer recovery:
- Vitamin E: This vitamin helps prevent damage from free radicals and absorbs energy from UV light. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and improves the skin’s protective barrier.
- Vitamin C: This vitamin boasts properties that make it toxic to cancer cells. It can also help boost the immune system and reduce cancer risk.
- Vitamin D: This vitamin helps the immune system and reduces cancer risk.
- Beta-carotene and Zinc: These nutrients boost the immune system and its ability to fight disease.
- Selenium: This mineral is said to reduce the risk of several cancers.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These fatty acids reduce inflammation and inhibit the growth of skin cancers.
- Lycopene: This antioxidant protects the skin against further sun damage.
- Polyphenols: These compounds can help repair DNA that’s been damaged by UV rays and also have anti-inflammatory and tumor-inhibiting properties.
Foods to Eat During Skin Cancer Recovery
Proper nutrition is essential for skin cancer patients, especially during recovery from surgery. A balanced diet filled with nutrient-rich foods can help you heal faster and reduce the risk of the cancer returning.
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.
- Carrots, squash, cantaloupe, apricots, and mango are all rich in beta-carotene.
- Tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit are excellent sources of lycopene.
- Fatty fish like salmon, herring, and albacore tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Walnuts and flaxseed are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly for vegetarians.
- Fortified milk and orange juice are excellent sources of vitamin D.
- Green or black tea is a great source of polyphenols.
- Brazil nuts are rich in selenium. Chicken and grass-fed beef are also excellent sources.
- Oranges, lemons, raspberries, broccoli, and leafy greens are great sources of vitamin C.
- Almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, and wheat germ are excellent sources of vitamin E.
- Lamb, shellfish, legumes, and beef are all good sources of zinc.
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.
Written By: Dr. Pablo Orozco
Dr. Pablo Orozco is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.
Dr. Orozco has been a treating physician at the Immunity Therapy Center for more than 3 years providing daily on site patient care. He works with patients on a daily basis and guides them through the treatment process. Dr. Orozco’s passion for Alternative Cancer Treatments along with his commitment to patient care is key to insure that our patients have the best experience and results possible.
- Surgery for Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/basal-and-squamous-cell-skin-cancer/treating/surgery.html
- Keeping Up Appearances: Minimizing Scarring After Skin Cancer Surgery https://www.curetoday.com/articles/keeping-up-appearances-minimizing-scarring-after-skin-cancer-surgery
- How to Get Rid of Old Scars: Top 10 Remedies https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-old-scars#takeaway
- Skin Cancer 101 https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/
- 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.