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After Surgery Care

How will I feel after my surgery?

  • You may have a sore throat from the breathing tube that was in place during your surgery.
  • You may feel sick to your stomach and tired from the medications you were given during and after your surgery. Tiredness can last up to 6 or 8 weeks.
  • You may have some bruising and tenderness in the area of your operation.
  • You may have numbness in the armpit and/or your upper arm, or your groin, depending on where your surgery took place.
  • Feelings of tightness, heaviness, tingling, burning, or more sensitivity are also common. Gently rubbing and tapping the area can help get rid of these sensations.
  • Your surgeon can prescribe you medication (gabapentin) for these feelings if they are bothering you.

What are some things I need to do after my surgery?

Deep breathing and coughing:

  • Do deep breathing exercises as soon as possible to keep your lungs clear after surgery.
  • For the first 2 days after surgery take 10 deep breaths 4 to 5 times a day.
  • After your deep breaths, cough 2 to 3 times.
  • Coughing up a bit of sputum (saliva and mucus) after surgery is normal.

What are some things I need to do after my surgery?

Will I have pain after my surgery?

  • You may have some mild pain or discomfort following surgery.
  • You will be given a prescription for pain medicine before you leave the hospital.
  • Be sure to fill your prescription for pain medicine as soon as possible so that you have it available if you should need it.
  • Take your pain medicine exactly as it is directed so that you can have good pain control.
  • If you are still having pain after taking your pain medicine or you have concerns about your pain medicine, call the Melanoma Site Nursing Team at 416-480-5000.

How do I take care of my surgical incision (cut)?

  • You may take off the outer dressings 48 hours after surgery.
  • You may shower 48 hours after your surgery.
  • If the incision is covered with paper tapes (called Steri-Strips), then leave these Steri-Strips in place for 10 days after your surgery.
  • After 10 days, you can take off the Steri-Strips while you are in the shower (the water makes them easier to remove them). They may come off on their own before 10 days. This happens to many people and is not something to be worried about.
  • The stitches on the wide excision incision may be rough and stick out from the skin. A dry gauze dressing may be put over the stitches until the stitches are taken out so they don't bother you.
  • There may be stitches at the ends of the incision for the sentinel node biopsy.
  • The stitches will be taken out by your surgeon at your follow-up appointment. Please DO NOT let other physicians remove your stitches unless authorized by your surgeon.
  • A small amount of blood on the dressing or Steri-Strips is normal.

What side effects might I have from the blue dye?

  • If your doctor used blue dye to find your sentinel lymph nodes you may have some side effects.
  • Some people may have an allergic reaction to the dye. This is very rare and occurs in less than 1 in a 100 patients (1 percent) who have this injection. If you get this reaction, it will happen during your surgery.
  • The blue dye is absorbed into the blood stream. It leaves your body through your kidneys and urine.
  • Your urine may be a blue or green colour for 24 to 48 hours after the operation. Your urine will return to a normal colour.
  • The blue dye may also cause your skin to change colour, especially around the injection site. Your skin will return to its normal colour but may take several weeks to months.
  • Your face or body may also look a bit blue or grey in colour from the dye. This will disappear in 24 to 48 hours.
  • Drinking water will help flush out the dye through your kidneys and urine.

What about my other regular medicine?

  • Restart your regular medicine after surgery unless your surgeon has told you not to.
  • If you normally take Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) or a blood thinner (such as Coumadin), ask your surgeon when you can start these medicines after surgery.
  • If you have any questions about your other regular medicines, please contact your family doctor.

What can be done about constipation?

You may become constipated after surgery. Constipation can happen for many reasons. Certain medicines, a change in your diet and less physical activity can all lead to constipation.

If you have trouble having a bowel movement:

  • Drink a lot of fluid after your surgery.
  • Use a stool softener, such as Colace, which is available at a pharmacy.
  • Or, use a laxative such as Senokot, which helps the bowels to move. Take 1 to 2 Senokot tablets twice a day as needed. Senokot is available at a pharmacy.
  • Eat prunes or drink prune juice.
  • If these don't help, please call the nursing phone line at 416-480-5000.

How can I help the scar to heal?

  • Scar massage helps to get rid of the sensitivity, tightness, and itchiness around the scar.
  • It also helps to soften and loosen the scar area so that you can move your shoulder better.
  • You may start scar massage 4 to 6 weeks after surgery, once the incision has healed.
  • Scar massage should be done for 2 to 3 minutes 2 to 3 times a day.

How do I do scar massage?

  • Put 2 fingers on the scar area.
  • Move your fingers in an up and down zigzag pattern one way across the scar and then move your fingers in circles the other way across the scar.

    scar massage

When should I get medical help if I run into problems?

If within 72 hours of your surgery:

  • You have a lot of bleeding from where you had your surgery. “A lot of” means a completely soaked bandage.
  • Or, you have a lot of very bloody drainage in the drain (need to empty 3 times in 8 hours).

Call your surgeon’s office. If you cannot get in contact with the surgeon’s office, phone the general surgery resident on call at 416-480-4244.


If you have any of the symptoms listed below — and it is between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday — call the Melanoma Site Nursing Team at 416-480-5000. If the symptoms happen outside of these times, call the general surgery resident on call at 416-480-4244 or go to the closest Emergency Department.

  • Your incision (cut) gets red, swollen or very tender to touch. You may have an infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics.
  • You have a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for over 24 hours. You may have an infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics.

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