I had a patient from Eagle County ask me the other day “how does one know if they have eyelid cancer?” There are several signs on the eyelid that are characteristic of eyelid cancer or tumor. Understanding the eyelid anatomy as a cosmetic eyelid surgeon is important but understanding it as a reconstructive surgeon of the eyelid is critical. The reason will be apparent shortly
What are the signs of eyelid cancer that most patients think about:
Growing bump on the eyelid
Most patients consider this to be the biggest sign of eyelid cancer. Yes, if you have a growing bump on your eyelid it may be cancer, but it could also be a benign growth or a stye.
There are two other signs that are significant for a growth on the face or eyelid being cancer:
Loss of Eyelashes
When cancer cells grow, they spread and destroy local tissue. When that happens blood vessels in the eyelid can get stretched, damaged and broken as cancer cells grow into them. As a result, the growth on the eyelid can spontaneously bleed. A lesion that bleeds on its own is at a very high risk for cancer. There are few other lesions or growth that do this. It is important to see someone who can do a biopsy to rule out cancer as soon as possible.
The second sign, loss of eyelashes in the eyelid is another sign that a patient has eyelid cancer. Any loss of eyelashes can be a large sign of eyelid cancer. Look at the pictures below and one can an idea of what eyelid cancer looks like. Education is key so patients can come in early to be screened and eyelid cancer removed. I have had eyelid cancer patients come to see me from Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming and even Utah. The eye is a sensitive structure and eyelid cancer spreading into eye socket can damage the eye and eyelid severely. Any of these signs mentioned above should be investigated fully.