Skin flaps/grafts on face after basal cell cancer

Hi everyone. As some of you know I have had a skin flap and skin graft surgery on my face, one in January and one in March.  I am on holiday in Cornwall and had a real melt down tonight.  Only been here a day and my scars are very red.  I have used my normal face moisturiser and lots of Factor 50 face sun cream.  No sun but very windy, but not been out in it for long and did revert to wearing my face mask to try and cover my face a bit more.  Has anyone else had an experience like this.  I feel I just want to shut myself away in our holiday apartment for 2 weeks.  How long have peoples grafts taken to completely look "normal". Some days I think mine looks better and the next day it seems lumpy.  I am just so fed up with it all now. Peoplke just think these bcc's are trivial, but they aren't and encroach on your life.  I am at a loss as to what to do.  Sun is fortecast from tomorrow and I am terrified to go out of the door, but my Consultant told me I had to as my body needs the sun, just be careful.  I just can't be any more careful.  I am massaging it still do you think I should stop now.  Just want a bit of re-assurance that things are ok. 

  • Hi Harlyn

    So sorry to hear that you're struggling to enjoy your holiday because of your skin and sun worries.

    I think meltdowns after what you've been through are perfectly normal and  to be expected. It's something that will take time and like you say , to other people these things are just trivial.

    Thing is to the person who has to go through the treatment and the recovery period they're anything but trivial.

    I'm just seven days post op for a basal cell on side of my nose. The plan is yo let it heal by secondary intention but this may change to reconstruction depending on how the surgeon thinks it's healing.

    The reason  for possible secondary intention healing is because of my awful phobia. It's been exhausting and terrifying and people don't understand.

    These things leave facial scars and the risk of other skin cancers popping up and it's definitely a traumatic time.

    I don't think I've said anything to reassure you but just to let you know that what you're feeling and going through is perfectly normal and that hopefully in time we heal physically and emotionally.

    I too was told not to completely avoid the sun but to be sensible.

    Try and enjoy the rest of your holiday and if you tell better wearing a mask then that's fine

    Thinking of you


  • I go to the hospital tomorrow for first dressing change. I'm already worked up about it.

    How do you feel with people who think these things are trivial and who minimise their impact?

  • Hi

    It must have been very worrying to find that after a day in the sun your scars are very red.

    You said that you had put sunscreen on your face but were you wearing a hat to shade your face as well? I was told to make sure all scars were covered by clothing for the first year after my operations as the new skin is extremely vunerable to the effects of the sun. Obviously you can't cover your face with clothing but you should shade it with a hat.

    I can totally understand how you might be feeling at the moment as I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in November 2016 so have had 5 summers since then when I've had to adapt my way of life to stay safe in the sun. I've also had an actinic keratosis and a BCC removed since then.

    As you know it's important to protect your skin from the affects of the sun but this doesn't mean that you have to stop doing things you used to enjoy doing, unless that was sunbathing, but you need to change some things to protect your skin.

    When I was diagnosed with melanoma I was given a leaflet with the following advice and thought you might find it helpful:

    1. Stay out of the sun during the strongest time of the day (11am to 3pm) between April and October inclusive in the UK and in all months of the year in any other part of the world
    2. When going outside wear long sleeved tops and trousers/skirts made from natural fibres like cotton
    3. Wear a broad brimmed hat (brim should be at least 3 inches) and sun glasses
    4. Sit in the shade and never sunbathe (or sun bake as the Australians call it!)
    5. Any part of your body that is not covered, ie. face, neck, back of hands should have a sun protection cream of SPF 50 that is effective against both UVA and UVB rays
    6. Re-apply the sunscreen every couple of hours or immediately after swimming
    7. Never use sunbeds
    8. Don't use sunscreen instead of covering up

    The first summer after I was diagnosed was particularly hard as I used to enjoy sitting in the sun. However, I quickly got used to the new regime and have a selection of hats to choose from when I go out. I also decided that I now needed a whole new wardrobe so went on a shopping spree. So, every cloud has a silver lining!

    I still go walking and obviously it isn't always possible to avoid the 11am to 3pm window so I make sure I'm covered up and liberally apply sunscreen every couple of hours to my face, neck and back of hands which aren't protected. 

    I still go to friend's BBQs, etc but make sure that I always sit in the shade and as they all know I had melanoma they don't think it's strange that I don't sit in the sun.

    So cover up, stay in the shade when you can and apply sunscreen to any parts of your body that are exposed and you should still be able to enjoy your holiday!

    Having not had a skin graft I can't comment on whether you should stop massaging it and how long it should take to look normal but hopefully others will be along soon.


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  • I too was given the same sun advice. I think when it's all new and scary it's more difficult and hopefully will settle in time.

    One of the hardest things I've found is other people's reactions. That it's just a skin cancer and there's lots of people with much worse.

    Of  course we already know this, but it's still difficult to come to terms with and when it's on your face it's so visible.

    Do you have any suggestions in coping with people's reactions?

  • Hi

    I’m 8 weeks after surgery (excision of bcc on side of nose and plastic surgery) I had dressings checked twice ( for two weeks after surgery) and given eye ointment (used after plastic surgery) to apply twice daily ( but until when?) I was advised upon discharge that a follow up appointment would be 4-6 weeks after surgery so for the last 3 weeks have been chasing without success BUT today was given a phone number for the consultants secretary who I’ve now contacted and been advised that she’s just typed a letter saying that histology results show the lesion to the nose has been fully excised (GREAT news) and I’ve been discharged!  No follow up appointments, so I’m not sure whether what I think looks ‘reasonable’   Post plastic surgery is considered good/bad/indifferent? I had expected a physical  post surgery follow-up by a professional.  Thoughts? 

  • That's great news that it's all been removed. You must be so releaved.

    I have been told that as it's healing by secondary intention ( hopefully) that they'll do regular dressing changes until it's healed.

    I was also told that will have a two year follow surgery. 

    Would it be worth asking if you could be seen for follow up to discuss any questions you have. It does sound a bit like you've been left to deal with it ?

  • I haven't had surgery on my face so probably haven't experienced the same reactions as you .

    My melanoma was on my arm and although the scar was about 4 inches long it was covered over during the day and only visible in an evening. If anyone did comment I just explained why I had it and answered any questions they might have. 

    The BCC and actinic keratosis were both on my chest and so again easy to keep covered.


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  • Thank you latchbrook

    You've certainly had a rough time. It makes me so mad when people trivialize skin cancers.

    You make a good point about just explaining to anyone who may ask

  • Thank you all so much for your replies.  It has been a very hot day today so we had coffee and went for a walk in a shaded area for about half an hour then sat on a bench under some trees. Have come back to where we are staying as we have a balcony and sun doesn't reach it until  It has made me feel more comfortable hearing your replies. I am covered in Factor 50 sun cream and have a selection of 3 large brimmed floppy hats, prescription polarised sun glasses and ordinary sun glasses, so can do no more. As we know skin cancer isn't trivial to those of us on here but so many people think it is nothing.  We have all been through traumatic times and now the sun is here we are generally worried.  From tomorrow I think it goes dull and rains. Never thought I would be pleased with this weather whilst on holiday.  I have never been a big lover of the sun, didn't sunbathe but still got these pesky things.  Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your replies, it has made me feel more confident.  I feel I am always moaning, but people like yourselves understand my concerns.  God Bless you all.  Thank you Latchbrook for all you do for this site and wish you well with your treatment.

  • Your not moaning Harlyn. I think we can all relate to your worries and how you feel.

    I've never been a sun worshipper but I'm now really happy when its a dull rainy day. Something else people don't understand.

    Glad you're feeling a bit happier and hope you really enjoy the rest of your holiday.