Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells, which usually occurs in people who have been exposed to too much ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun.
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.


Small and superficial skin cancers may be treated with diathermy or laser and in some cases a topical cream can be applied.  Larger and non-superficial skin cancers will require surgical excision. 

Surgical techniques

Simple excision.  The surgeon will excise the skin cancer with a scalpel.  An adequate margin of healthy skin is removed because this improves the likelihood that all of the cancer has been removed.  The removed cancer will be sent for pathology testing.
Skin graft.  If a lot of skin must be removed, the surgeon may not be able to pull the edges of the healthy skin together, so a skin graft or a local flap of skin may be necessary.  A split skin graft involves removal of a thin layer of normal skin from a healthy part of the body, such as the arm, thigh or buttock.  The graft is placed over the gap created by the removal of the skin cancer and sutured into place.  The donor site usually heals in about 10 – 14 days and leaves a visible scarred area.
Full thickness skin graft.  This is a thicker graft that is commonly used to re-surface defects on the face.  The grafts are often taken from the neck or behind the ear.
Skin flap.  A skin flap may be used to repair a large area.  This method is often used for the face.


Estimated costs

Total cost: $400 - $2000

Risks and possible problems

• Infection of the wound, which can be treated with antibiotics.
• Bleeding from the wound.
• Incomplete excision, which may require further surgery.
• Wound breakdown.  Although a wound usually heals well in 2 weeks or so, complete healing may take weeks or months.  Occasionally the wound may reopen due to strenuous activity or unexpected pulling.
• Loss of skin graft or flap.  Due to a number of factors, a skin graft or flap may not “take” and part or all of the flap may be lost.  Further surgery may then be necessary.
• Scarring of the surgical site depends on factors such as the size of the skin cancer, its location, the rate of healing, your age and general health, and genetic make-up.  Some people develop thick, raised and itchy keloid scars.

If you need more information, please call 03 8769 8555 or email us at and we will get back to you next business day.

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