Should I get my eyelid growth checked out? Is it cancer?
As an oculofacial plastic surgeon or eyelid specialist, I see many patients every day with cosmetic concerns about their eyelid. Some of them are interested in blepharoplasty or eyelid lifts. Others have concerns about their skin quality of their face. One of the most common things that patients have questions about are lumps or bumps on their eyelid and face. The big thing is distinguishing between benign growth and cancer. A benign growth grows slowly and is of low risk. A malignant growth can invade your eye, brain and even kill you. It is important to get any bump checked out to make sure it is benign or malignant. A malignant lesion such as basal cell, squamous cell or melanoma can grow and spread not only superficially on the skin but also in the deep tissue. There have been cases where patients have not had an eyelid lesion checked and the skin cancer ends up growing to an extremely large size.
Here is a quick summary of what makes us worried about a bump on the face or eyelid.
Irregular growth – Things like styes or benign growths (not cancer) tend to grow as a discrete circle where cancer of the face and eyelid tends to grow all over the place. If there is a bump on your eyelid or face that is irregular looking, there is a good chance you have cancer on your eyelid and should be seen
Spontaneous bleeding – Cancer disrupts the normal blood vessels and destroys the normal tissue. When that happens, the lesion will bleed. Benign growths do not bleed because they grow slowly without disrupting architecture of the normal eyelid
Destruction of normal architecture – If there is a bump on your eyelid or face and the architecture is damaged meaning the lashes are gone or the eyelid edge looks messed up or the tear duct is eroded, that is a really bad sign. Benign growths do not destroy eyelashes whereas malignant lesions do.
Abnormal Coloring – Eyelid lesions that are cancer especially melanoma can have irregular color. They can change color over time.
Large lesions - Large growths (over the size of a pencil eraser) are more likely to be cancer. Anything that grows also is at a high risk for cancer rather than growths that have been stable for years.
Additionally there are some personal risk factors that should make someone have a very low threshold to check out a growth on their eyelid. They are listed below. It is better to be safe than sorry so an oculoplastic surgeon can quickly evaluate your growth.
History of smoking – Smokers have a high risk of skin cancer. All their lesions need to be checked. Period. The good news is that Denver is not a high smoking city and neither is Colorado in general.
History of sun exposure – Skin cancer risk is directly related to exposure of the sun. If you have been constantly exposed to the outdoors over your life and now continue that exposure, you will most likely develop a skin cancer with time. It is important that you get any lesion checked out. There is a lot of skin cancer in Denver and Colorado in general because of the high altitude and sun exposure.
History of previous skin cancer – If you have had a previous skin cancer, you have a 50% chance of having a second skin cancer. Any bump or growth on the eyelid or face should be checked.
Fair skinned and/or red hair - Fair skinned individuals especially with red hair or light eyes are in itself a risk factor for skin cancer. You should have a very low threshold for having something checked out.