Will melanoma surgery leave a scar?

Jill Onesti, MD
Surgical Oncology
Melanoma surgery does leave a scar. Treatment of the original lesion on the skin consists of a "wide local excision." The distance of skin to be removed (the margin) is determined based on how deep the melanoma goes through the skin. You may be surprised at how much additional skin is taken in order to prevent the melanoma from coming back. Ask your doctor to show you how big an incision he or she plans to make. Occasionally the skin may not be able to be closed after the melanoma is removed. In these situations, a skin graft (taking a portion of skin from somewhere else on your body) or rearranging adjacent skin may be required.
 
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Scarring following melanoma surgery depends on the stage of the melanoma. If the melanoma is detected early and the growth is not very deep, doctors can usually remove the small amount of tissue with a simple straight-line incision. Usually, the scar from this kind of surgery fades after a while. If the growth is larger or has spread deeper, the doctor will need to remove more tissue. In these cases, skin grafting may be necessary and will likely leave a scar that is more noticeable. Other factors, such as location of the melanoma and a person's ability to heal, also affect the level of scarring. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about scarring after melanoma treatment.

Tara Whitworth
Nursing
All surgeries have the potential to leave a scar. Whether or not your scar will be noticeable depends on how well you heal and how well you take care of the incision. There are also things you can do to help lessen the appearance of your scar. Don’t expose wounds to sunlight for at least a year, as sunlight causes the scars to turn a red or purple color. Keep the wound clean and do not pick at the wound or scab. Once the scabs have healed, and the wound is closed, you can use a scar treatment cream. Use gentle massage to apply the cream, as this will help to flatten out the scar. If you have a scar that has not healed properly or that you are unhappy with, talk to your doctor. You may be a candidate for scar revision.
Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgery
Any time an incision is made through the dermis, a scar will be present. The extent of scarring depends on the size of the defect. Larger melanomas may require flap reconstruction that certainly will lead to an obvious scar.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.