One of the most common things that oculoplastic surgeons in Denver treat is eyelid cancer. The three most common eyelid cancers are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. The most serious is melanoma which has a significant risk of death. The most common is basal cell carcinoma which I will briefly discuss today.
Basal Cell Carcinoma is a skin cancer that commonly affects the lower eyelid in light skinned patients especially those who are exposed to sunlight. In Denver, in the high altitude and high UV sun exposure, skin cancer is common. The upper eyelid in patients is often shaded by the brow so there is a lower incidence in that location.
A couple facts which are important to know.
1. If you had one skin cancer you have a 50% chance of getting a second one. The bottom line is that anyone with a history of skin cancer should be checked regularly by their dermatologist.
2. If you smoke you increase the risk of skin cancer. Smoking increases the chance that cells in the body can become cancerous. This also applies to skin cancer cells. In short, if you smoke you need to quit.
3. Skin cancer does not go away on its own. I have had several patients over time that have had skin cancer diagnosed a year or even several months prior and thought it would "go away on its own". Skin cancer never goes away on its own. Think of it like a parking ticket. Ignoring it just results it in increasing via delay fines. It needs to be addressed immediatly.
4. Any bump on the eyelid can be skin cancer Any lesion on the eyelid can be skin cancer and should be examined and/or excised and sent to pathology to be analyzed. There is even an uncommon fourth type of skin cancer called sebaceous cell carcinoma that can mimic a stye!
How do we treat skin cancer on the eyelid?
Skin cancer on the eyelid is treated most often with excision. This is often done with a Mohs surgeon who excises the skin cancer and leaves a hole for the oculoplastic surgeon to repair. The eyelid has muscles, oil glands and skin. Repairing it requires accurate knowledge of the anatomy. An oculoplastic surgeon is uniquely trained to be able to treat it and fix a defect such as that. The first step however is a biopsy of the lesion in order to see if in fact a growth is cancer or not.
Hopefully this article helped you to understand the basics of eyelid cancer and how we treat it in Denver. If you have questions or need to be seen call our office at 303 468 8844.