The eyes are encased and safeguarded by strong, bony, sockets called orbits. The orbits are surrounded by thin tissue, the same tissue as the upper and lower eyelids. The eyelid skin is the thinnest and most sensitive skin on the body, and it is easily damaged by sun exposure. Because of that, non-melanoma skin cancers on and around the eyelids are common. About 5-10% of all skin cancers occur on the eyelid. And, the lower eyelid is the most common site for cancers; more than half of eyelid cancers develop there. Cancers occur less frequently on the upper eyelid and eyebrow, in the inner corner of the eye, and, rarely, in the outer corner.
Symptoms of Eyelid Skin Cancer
Symptoms can vary based on the type of cancer. In the majority of cases, patients will notice lesions on or around the eyelids. These lesions are typically not painful, but they will stubbornly remain even after attempted treatment with topical ointments. Non-cancerous skin lesions will typically go away on their own. Eyelid skin cancer lesions often increase in size or change color and shape. In some cases, they may rupture, bleed or discharge pus. Other symptoms include:
- A bump that is smooth, shiny, pearly or waxy, or firm and red
- A sore or lump that bleeds or develops a crust or a scab
- A flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion
- A rough and scaly red or brown patch
- An itchy or tender flat spot with a scaly, crusted surface
- A stye that does not heal
- Loss of eyelashes
Any nodule or lesion on the eyelid that grows, bleeds, ulcerates, or does not heal should be evaluated.
Diagnosing Eyelid Skin Cancers
Dr. Michael Neimkin carefully examines any abnormality on the eyelid to diagnose cancer and confirms the diagnosis through a surgical biopsy. If he suspects cancer has spread beyond the eyelid, additional diagnostic tests are performed:
- Imaging tests, such as CT, CAT, or MRI scans
- A sentinel lymph node biopsy. Dr. Neimkin removes the sentinel lymph node, the regional node to which cancer is likely to spread and analyzes it for the presence of cancer cells
Early detection is essential because some cancers have the ability to infiltrate inward along the deeper layers of the skin and through the bones and sinuses around the eye.
Treatment Options for Eyelid Skin Cancer
Options include Mohs microsurgery and/or frozen section control. In both procedures, the tumor and a small margin of skin around it are removed in thin layers. Each layer is examined for tumor cells as it is removed. This procedure ensures the best removal of cancer and the least amount of healthy surrounding tissue and decreases the rate of recurrence. With early diagnosis and treatment using one of these surgical approaches, the prognosis for most eyelid cancers is good, with a low chance of recurrence. After the tumor is removed the site where the tumor was removed is reconstructed to achieve an optimal cosmetic and functional result.
- Radiation therapy
- Chemotherapy and targeted therapy
Steps that can Prevent Eyelid Skin Cancer
The best way is to wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet light and a wide-brimmed hat. Since the eyelid skin absorbs moisturizer better than sunscreen, use a broad spectrum, SPF 15+ moisturizer on the eyelid region rather than sunscreen.
Don’t ignore any symptom that could potentially lead to eyelid skin cancer. Call or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation with Dr. Michael Neimkin. At the Ophthalmic Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery Center, Dr. Neimkin and his staff take pride in only offering patients the highest level of care in a family-like environment. Our office serves patients in the metro Atlanta, GA area including the surrounding communities. We look forward to helping you soon.
Don’t ignore any symptom that could potentially lead to eyelid skin cancer. Call or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation with Dr. Michael Neimkin. At the Ophthalmic Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery Center, Dr. Neimkin and his staff take pride in only offering patients the highest level of care in a family-like environment. Our office serves patients in the metro Atlanta area including the surrounding communities.
We look forward to helping you soon.
Skin cancer can affect us all. Following ADA screening recommendations and team based treatment is a must. This patient had a pigmented basal cell carcinoma discovered by her dermatologist during an annual screening (top left), the next two photos are the area after excision by a mohs surgeon. The top right is immediately after reconstruction, the bottom right 2 weeks after reconstruction.