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  • Chris Thiagarajah MD

When is an eyelid bump cancer?


Often patients in Denver have bumps on their eyelid. In fact often it is a stye. I have dedicated a website to stye and chalazion treatment (www.denverstye.com). That is a large part of my practice. The question I commonly get from patients in Colorado is "Is this bump cancer?" Well here are some signs that a bump on the eyelid is in fact not cancer.

First, has it been growing? I had a patient this week who told me she had a bump which was the same size for the last 25 years. The chance that it could be cancer is pretty darn low. On the flip side, a pigmented lesion that someone has had for 25 years but is growing now, can easily be cancer. The lesion above in the photo was growing in the patient for the last year. She "hoped it would go away" which generally never does.

Second, is there loss of lashes or distortion of the eyelid? Eyelid cancer grows and damages surrounding structures. Benign or noncancerous growths do not damage lashes or their follicles. In the patient above one can see that the eyelashes are missing. That is a big sign of cancer....in this case a basal cell cancer.

Third, does it bleed spontaneously? An abnormal growth will bleed on its own whereas a benign lesion will not. Bleeding on its own is a bad sign and tells the oculoplastic surgeon that something is most likely eyelid cancer.

Fourth, does it have wierd colors? Abnormally coloring is also a bad sign and particularily a bad sign of melanoma of the eyelid. Melanoma is a eyelid skin cancer that can kill you.

The short of it is that anything that is questionable should be looked at by an eyelid specialist. At our office in Denver, I often have patients who come in for examination and I look at it and tell them that what they have is benign and may not need a biopsy. Other times I biopsy eyelid growths or bumps and they do end up being a skin cancer. Then as an eyelid specialist I can excise or remove it and reconstruct it.

I hope this was helpful. If you have an eyelid growth or bump get it checked out especially if it is new, growing, bleeding or causing you to lose eyelashes. It is better to be safe than sorry.


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