After treatment for skin cancer

You may have follow-up appointments after treatment for skin cancer. Your doctor will check that the cancer hasn’t come back and that treatment was successful.

If you have had a skin cancer, you are more at risk of getting another one. It is important to regularly check your skin for new symptoms or skin changes. If you have any new symptoms or problems, let your doctor know straight away.

It is important to protect your skin from the sun after treatment. Here are some suggestions:

  • Wear close-weave cotton clothes and a hat to protect your face and neck.
  • Use high-factor suncream when you are out in the sun.
  • Don’t let your skin burn.
  • Spend time in the shade when the sun is strongest (11am to 3pm).

A small amount of sunshine is important. It helps our bodies make vitamin D, which keeps our bones and teeth healthy.

Some people have scars after treatment. If you find these difficult to cope with, talk to your doctor or nurse. They will be able to suggest things that may help.

After treatment – follow up

Many people who have surgery for BCCs and very early-stage SCCs will not need long-term follow-ups. However, your doctor may want you to have regular check-ups for a time. This is to make sure that treatment has been successful and the cancer has not come back. These check-ups are a good opportunity to talk to your doctor about any problems or worries you may have.

Once you have had a skin cancer, you are more at risk of developing another one somewhere else. You also have a higher risk of developing a recurrence of the skin cancer in the area where you had it before.

It is important to regularly check your skin for any new symptoms or changes that could be cancer. Using a mirror can help if there are areas you cannot see easily, such as your back. Or you can ask a relative or friend, if you feel comfortable doing so. If you have any problems, or notice any new symptoms in between check-ups, tell your doctor as soon as possible.

Share your experience

When treatment finishes, many people find it helps to talk about and share their thoughts, feelings and advice with other people. This can be especially helpful for others with skin cancer who are about to start their treatment. Just hearing about how you have coped, what side effects you had and how you managed them is very helpful to someone in a similar situation.

We can help you share your story. Call us on 0808 808 00 00 or read about becoming a Cancer Voice.


Preventing further skin cancers

Protecting yourself from the sun is even more important after you have had treatment for skin cancer. Here are some suggestions on how you can protect your skin:

  • The best protection is to cover up. Wear clothing made of cotton or natural fibres that have a close weave. These will give you more protection against the sun.
  • Keep your arms and legs covered by wearing long-sleeved tops and trousers. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and neck.
  • Use suncream with a high sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Choose one that protects against UVA and UVB, with four or five stars. Follow the instructions on the bottle and re-apply as recommended, particularly after swimming. Remember to apply suncream on and behind your ears.
  • Many people do not use enough suncream. Experts say you need at least six to eight teaspoons of lotion for an average-sized adult to give the SPF coverage it says on the bottle.
  • Always wear sunglasses in strong sunlight.
  • Do not let your skin burn.
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. This is usually between 11am and 3pm.
  • Do not use a sunbed or sunlamp. If it is important for you to look tanned, use fake tan lotions or sprays.
  • Check your skin regularly for any changes.

Protecting yourself from the sun is important. But experts recommend that we have regular exposure to a small amount of sunshine. This is because it helps our bodies make vitamin D, which keeps our bones and teeth healthy.

If you are not often exposed to the sun, you may want to ask your specialist or GP to check your vitamin D levels. This vitamin is important for general health and can get very low in people who avoid the sun.

I am extra careful and make sure I use a lot of suncream and always wear a hat. I am much more aware and careful about the risks.

Andrew


Body image

Doctors try to minimise the effects of skin cancer treatments on appearance. Many people have only minor scarring after treatment. But sometimes, if the skin cancer was larger or deeper, the effects may be more obvious.

If treatment has changed the way you look, you may feel differently about yourself and your body image. Although the effects will often improve with time, it may make some people feel more self-conscious about how they look.

Everyone’s reactions are different. Some people may feel more self-conscious about their body but find it manageable. Or you may find your concerns are on your mind a lot of the time, which can be upsetting.

Talking openly with people you trust can be the best way forward. This could be your family or close friends, or your cancer doctor or nurse. Talking to another person who has been through something similar can also help.

There are practical things that can help you to feel better about your appearance, manage changes to your body and improve your confidence. For example, you may want to consider using camouflage make-up to cover a scar. You can talk to your doctor or specialist nurse about camouflage make-up or about any concerns you have.

We have more information about body image that you may find helpful.


Your feelings

Although your skin cancer is likely to be cured, you may feel anxious or upset for a while after you have been diagnosed. It is important to remember there is no right or wrong way to feel. Everyone’s reactions are different and you might have a mixture of emotions.

Talking about your feelings can be helpful. If other people know how you feel, it makes it easier for them to support you. You can talk to your doctor or specialist nurse for support too.

Occasionally, some people may need more than the advice and support of their healthcare professionals, family and friends. Sometimes it is easier to talk to someone who is not directly involved in your situation.

If you are finding it difficult to cope, your specialist or GP can usually refer you to a counsellor who can help. You can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 to speak to cancer support specialists about anything that is on your mind.

Back to Treating

Decisions about treatment

Your doctors may tell you there are different options for your treatment. Having the right information will help you make the right decision for you.

Surgery

Surgery is the most common treatment for skin cancer. How it's done depends mostly on the size of the cancer and where it is.

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is the use of high-energy rays, usually x-rays and similar rays (such as electrons) to treat cancer.

Clinical trials

Many people are offered a trial as part of treatment. Find out more to help you decide if a trial is right for you.