Reconstructive Plastic Surgery

Removal of Melanoma

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in the skin’s pigment cells (melanocytes). If left untreated, melanoma is dangerous and can be life threatening.

Surgery is the most common treatment for melanoma. Our highly skilled plastic surgeons will remove the melanoma and its surrounding tissue. In some cases, a skin graft is needed to close the wound after surgery.


How are Melanomas Removed?

Our surgeons will remove the entire melanoma as well as a border of healthy looking skin (called the margin). The amount of surrounding healthy skin removed will depend on the depth of the melanoma. Usually extra skin and fat is removed from under the lesion also.

The wound is closed with stitches, however larger excisions or ones located on the feet, face or hands may need a skin graft.

Sometimes the lymph nodes will also need to be removed, so they can be checked for cancer, or if cancer is already present.

Curing Melanoma with Surgery

In many cases, when the cancer is found early and only in the nearby lymph nodes, surgery to remove the melanoma is an effective cure.

Metastatic melanoma (cancer that spreads to other parts of the body) can only be cured by surgery in some cases. It will however provide the longest-lasting relief from symptoms.


Recovery and Rehabilitation

After surgery you may have stitches until the wound heals. One to three weeks is an average healing time, however if the wound is larger or you had a skin graft it may take longer to heal.

After your wound heals you may have a scar, which should fade with time.

You may experience some pain around the site of the wound after surgery and your surgeon may recommend some over-the-counter medication or prescribe you some pain medication.

You will receive post-operative instructions outlining when you can get back to normal activities and how to care for the wound.

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What else you should know

The Difference Between Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers 

Melanoma is more serious and less common than basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

In most cases (95%) melanomas are shades of brown. In 30% of cases they begin in previously ‘normal’ moles and in 70% of cases they begin as new moles.

Identifying and treating melanomas early is vital as they are dangerous and can be life threatening.

How do I care for myself at home?

After returning home from surgery you should follow the post-operative instructions provided by the Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Melbourne team.

Remember, everyone recovers differently, but you can follow these general steps to optimise your healing.


  • Always speak with your surgeon to find out when you can recommence taking your existing medication and before starting any new medicine they have prescribed.
  • Always consult your surgeon before taking new medication, even if it’s over-the-counter.
  • Always follow the instructions provided with the medication.


  • When you have stitches, always check with your surgeon before returning to your normal activities.
  • After a skin graft, any exercise that stretches the skin should be avoided for at least three weeks.

Caring for your wound

  • Your wound will have a dressing covering it to help it heal and protect it from outside elements. If you had a skin graft you may need to change your bandages. Your post-operative instructions will outline how to care for your wound.
  • If you have stitches, your surgeon will let you know when or if you have to return to have them removed.
  • Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water and pat it dry. Ensure you don’t use any alcohol or hydrogen peroxide which can slow down the healing process.
  • After 24 to 48 hours you may shower, try to keep the wound as dry as possible. If it gets wet, always pat dry the wound. Baths shouldn’t be taken for at least two weeks or until your surgeon advises it’s safe.
  • If you had a skin graft, be sure not to rub over the wound for at least three to four weeks.

Follow-up appointments

Follow-up appointments are essential after having a melanoma removed.

What are some of the risks?

Like any surgery, there are risks and complications associated with removing melanoma.

Risks of surgery to remove melanoma include:

  • infection
  • scarring
  • bleeding
  • rejection of the skin graft.
When should I call for help?

Notify your RPS team immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • fever/high temperature – 38°C or higher
  • your stitches become loose or your wound opens
  • increasing pain that doesn’t improve with medication
  • increasing warmth, swelling or redness around incision site
  • pus coming from the incision site
  • heavy bleeding from incision site
  • red streaks leading to the incision site
  • you can’t pass stools or gas
  • signs of a blood clot including pain in your calf, back of the knee, groin or thigh, redness or swelling in your leg.

If you pass out or are short of breath call 000 for emergency care.

Our Canberra specialists

The team at RPS Canberra are committed to providing you with the best possible outcome.

The extensive specialist skills of our surgical team ensure that you are provided with surgical options designed to maximise form and function.

Our surgeons hold an impressive array of academic credentials, extensive professional experience and a personal commitment to patient satisfaction.