As a dermatologist in the Naperville, IL area, I see first-hand the importance of taking care of your skin. Every single one of us is at risk for skin cancer at some point in life, which is why I encourage all patients to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day and limit exposure to the sun as much as possible. Even in the winter, it’s best to protect yourself from direct sunlight in the middle of the day.
Still, despite our best efforts, skin cancer can develop in a gradual, pernicious way. The good news is that once it emerges, we can successfully treat it through Mohs surgery. If you have already been diagnosed with basal or squamous cell skin cancer and are planning to undergo the procedure, here’s a timeline to help you prepare.
Before the Day of Surgery
Inform the dermatologist about any medical devices you may have (e.g., defibrillator, pacemaker, stents, artificial joints, implants). Also, advise the practice if you’ve been instructed to take antibiotics before dental or medical procedures.
Stop smoking at least 2 weeks before the procedure to help the wound heal. If you’re already taking blood thinning medication, continue doing so. The dermatologist should provide additional information during your consultation.
The Night Before Surgery
Get a good night’s sleep and prepare to spend the entire day at the dermatologist’s office. Bring a good book, bring a laptop, bring some needlework — anything to occupy your time as you wait for the specialist to evaluate the excised tissue.
The Day of Surgery
Unless you’ve been instructed to not eat or drink after midnight on the day of your procedure, eat a good breakfast. You may also want to bring some fruit or even lunch to the practice. A few more things to consider:
- Don’t wear makeup if the Mohs surgery is for an area of your face.
- Wear comfortable clothes with layers, in case the room temperature is uncomfortable.
- Have a companion available to drive you home, if necessary.
The success rate for Mohs surgery performed on patients getting skin cancer removed for the first time is nearly 99%. That means, with proper skin care in the future, a patient shouldn’t have a recurrence in the same area.
If you have trouble keeping New Year’s resolutions (and who doesn’t?), I’d like to suggest making a simpler commitment this year that takes only a few minutes each day: a daily skin care regimen. Adopting a skin care routine is something I encourage for anyone, because it’s never too late to start. Even if you’ve already encountered the consequences of excessive sun exposure and have been diagnosed with basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer. In fact, once you have those cancerous cells removed, it’s more important than ever to protect your skin.