Skin cancer is the most common cancer affecting Americans in the modern age. Although it boasts a 99-percent success rate, the Moh's surgery procedure used to remove cancerous cells can leave behind scars. Since most skin cancer occurs in the face, neck, and other visible areas, it is understandable that people undergoing this procedure would want to minimize the risk of scarring or reduce the appearance of scars that may form. Here are three things you can do if you're in this situation.
Discuss Scar-Minimizing Procedures with the Doctor
Moh's skin cancer surgery is popular for more than its success rate. This procedure is designed to leave behind the smallest scars possible after the cancerous cells are removed. However, since tissue is extracted from the area—which must then be reconstructed by the body—sometimes scarring is unavoidable, especially if the cancer is large.
Therefore, one thing you can do before undergoing treatment is voice your concern about scarring with the surgeon and discuss a few scar-minimizing procedures he or she could implement to help reduce their appearance.
For instance, discuss changing the stitching technique he or she uses to close the wound from the common interrupted suture (where stitches are placed individually) to a continuous suture (where the wound is closed using one long thread). Since fewer knots are needed with a continuous suture technique, there is less risk of scarring. However, this technique is not appropriate for all wounds, and puckering may occur if it is done on thin skin.
Another option is to perform a dermabrasion or laser treatment to sand the treated area. This forces the body to produce new skin cells to cover the wound that blend in better with the surrounding skin. Although a study into this method shows it can significantly reduce scarring, it is not recommended for use on very thin skin, such as the eyelids.
There may be other things the doctor can do during or right after surgery to help reduce scarring, so it's worth the time to discuss these options before going under the knife.
Keep the Area Moisturized
Minimizing scar formation also requires you to stay on top of the wound care after surgery. In particular, you need to keep the wound moisturized. For some reason, people believe letting their wounds develop scabs will prevent scars from forming. However, this can actually slow the healing process and worsen the appearance of scars. Skin heals better when it stays moisturized, which can lead to reduced scarring.
Typically, you'll be required to keep the pressure dressing on the wound for a couple of days. The moment it comes off, though, you should be slathering emollients on the area daily to keep the skin moist and supple. Vitamin E oil, Bio Oil, and Mederma are all good options. However, your doctor can also recommend products that will promote healing and reduce scarring.
While it's important to keep exterior skin moist, don't forget to moisturize your insides. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Not only can this help your skin remain moist, but becoming dehydrated can hinder the healing process.
It can take several months for the skin to fully heal from surgery. In the meantime, it's critical you wear sunscreen whenever you are outside in the sun. First, this will reduce the risk you'll develop skin cancer again, as the sun is the most common cause of the disease. Second, scars darken in sunlight, which will make them more noticeable. So reduce your exposure to UV rays as much as possible (including refraining from using tanning beds) and wear sunscreen as much as possible.
For more tips on dealing with scarring after skin cancer surgery, contact a dermatologist.