What's A Minor Skin Cancer Surgery Like?

I had my first battle with skin cancer over twenty years ago. I’ve had more than a few since then; during my last major surgery, I had 23 areas removed. I’m diligent about checking my skin for suspicious areas, but I don’t try to kid myself that I won’t have more cancerous spots in the future as it is likely I will.

Tiny red dot

It had been almost two years since I’d last had cancerous areas that required removal. When a tiny red dot recently appeared in an area where the sun doesn’t even shine, I immediately noticed it. My instinct was that it was something my dermatologist needed to look at, and fortunately I already had an appointment scheduled for a skin check. During that appointment, my doctor examined the tiny dot and said she would be doing a biopsy on it that day. The biopsy results a few days later led to a phone call from my doctor that I needed to come back in to have the area excised.

Excision for basal cell carcinoma

I had a late Friday afternoon appointment for removal of the basal cell cancer. While everyone else I knew was getting ready for a long holiday weekend, I was in my doctor’s office. (Yes, I was feeling slightly sorry for myself!) For the procedure, my doctor cleaned the area and I was given six numbing shots. Good thing I don’t hate needles! Once I was numb, my doctor cut out the area, removing a large-enough area of skin and tissue to hopefully get all of the skin cancer. Even though I couldn’t actually feel her cutting, I did feel pressure. I was then given an internal layer of stitches followed by an external layer of stitches, which were to stay in for two weeks. This was all finished off with a large pressure bandage, held in place by pieces of surgical tape that pulled and tugged whenever I moved. About four hours after the procedure, the numbing shots wore off and I was in pain. If you are someone who has a low pain tolerance, know that you most likely aren’t going to get any pain medications for a procedure such as this. For the next two weeks, I had to be careful to not do any heavy lifting or anything strenuous so I wouldn’t pull open my stitches.

One small red bump, approximately the size of a pencil lead, required all of this treatment. Keep in mind, this was an easy procedure compared to some of the others that I have had.

Cost of skin cancer

Please know this: skin cancer treatment can be painful, the recovery process is less than fun, and treatment can be expensive. For a tiny area of basal cell carcinoma removed during a minor in-office procedure, my bill so far is $1,620, not including the pathologist’s bill that I’ve not yet received. If I knew when I was younger what I know now, I would have been much more sun smart. Learn from my mistakes...avoid over-exposure to the sun, avoid tanning beds, and hopefully you can avoid skin cancer surgery!

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