Surgery is often required to remove abnormal growths (e.g. skin cancer), lesions (sebaceous cysts), or other skin-related problems (e.g. lipoma).

Do all skin cancers require surgery?

In short, no. Non-surgical options such as topical treatments and liquid nitrogen are also effective in some situations. Surgery, however, is commonly required to establish a diagnosis and for a definitive solution to the problem.

What is a Lipoma?

A lipoma is a benign fatty tumour that grows under the skin. It is usually painless and slow-growing and can occur anywhere on the body. Lipomas are usually harmless but may cause discomfort or be unsightly. Depending on their location, they can also be uncomfortable if they interfere with daily activities such as putting clothes on. In these situations, surgery to remove the lipoma is recommended. If there is diagnostic doubt, and a lesion other than lipoma is probable, surgery is also recommended.


Surgery for skin lesions, including lipoma excision, is relatively straightforward. The area around the site of the surgery is cleaned and numbed with a local anaesthetic. Sedation or a general anaesthetic (being put off to sleep) is occasionally necessary. The lesion is then excised and the skin edges re-approximated using stitches. In many cases, the stitches are dissolving with no “removal of stitches” necessary. Occasionally, closure with stitches alone is not possible if the area to be removed is large. This is usually able to be anticipated before surgery and your surgeon will discuss the reconstruction options with you.

Risks and Complications

For most people, skin surgery is a safe and relatively straightforward procedure. The risks of surgery include bleeding, infection, scarring, nerve damage, or recurrence of the lesion. Depending on the type of lesion (e.g. for some types of skin cancer), further surgery can be necessary. Your surgeon will discuss these risks with you before the procedure and answer any questions you may have.

After Surgery

Following your procedure, you will be given specific instructions on how to care for the surgical site. Any restrictions on movement are likely to be related to the specific site (e.g. leg) and you will be asked to keep the site clean and dry. You may experience some discomfort, swelling, or bruising, which can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication and ice packs. Your surgeon will schedule a follow-up appointment to monitor your healing and to review the microscope result.

The content is to be used as a guide only. Always consult your specialist to determine information relevant to you and your circumstances.