Follow-up after treatment for non-melanoma skin cancer

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for non-melanoma skin cancer is often shared among specialists, such as the dermatologist and surgeon, and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any signs and symptoms that are new or don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have any new growths or abnormal areas on your skin.

The chance of non-melanoma skin cancer coming back (recurring) is greatest within 3 years for basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and within 2 years for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Close follow-up is often needed during this time. But since non-melanoma skin cancer can come back at any time, long-term follow-up is also important.

Schedule for follow-up visits

Follow-up visits for non-melanoma skin cancer are usually scheduled every 6–12 months. It depends on the type of cancer and risk group of the non-melanoma skin cancer. If you were treated for a high-risk non-melanoma skin cancer, follow-up is usually done more often for the first 2–3 years. Follow-up visits for SCC tend to be more often than for BCC.

Doctors usually suggest that people with a history of skin cancer have a skin exam at least once every year for the rest of their life.

During follow-up visits

During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping. They will also ask if you have any new signs or symptoms that concern you.

Your doctor will do a skin exam to check:

  • the site where the cancer was removed or treated
  • for abnormal areas on the skin on the rest of the body, especially areas that are exposed to the sun

Your doctor may also teach you about:

Depending on the risk group and any signs or symptoms you are having, your doctor may also:

  • feel lymph nodes close to where the cancer started
  • send you for imaging tests, such as a CT scan, to check if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body

If cancer has come back, your healthcare team will assess you to determine the best treatment options.

Questions to ask about follow-up

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Skin Cancer: Basal and Squamous Cell. 2015:
  • Christensen SR, Leffell DJ . Cancer of the skin. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 92:1314-1336.
  • National Cancer Institute. Skin Cancer Treatment (PDQ®). 2015:
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Basal Cell Skin Cancer (Version 1.2015). 2015.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Squamous Cell Skin Cancer (Version 1.2015). 2015.
  • Zloty D, Guenther LC, Sapijaszko M et al . Non-melanoma skin cancer in Canada chapter 4: management of basal cell carcinoma. Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2015.