Recently , it has come to light that Kelly Ripa identified a growth on Andy Cohen’s lip. As an eyelid and oculofacial plastic surgeon in Denver, I treat patients with eyelid and facial melanoma. So why is it such a big deal to catch melanoma early? Melanoma is a less common but extremely deadly skin cancer that can appear anywhere on the body but most commonly on sun exposed skin. The reason melanoma is so serious is that it is one of the few skin cancers that can spread to the rest of the body such as lung and liver and kill someone.
What are the characteristics of melanoma? On the face or eyelid, a melanoma is usually a dark enlarging or changing growth. Most doctors are concerned especially when the growth is larger than the tip of a pencil eraser. Other signs of trouble with pigmented growths are enlarging size, changing color, spontaneous bleeding or disruption of the normal tissue such as hair growth in the area. If you have a melanoma growth it is important to get it checked out, biopsied and removed as quickly as possible.
The normal treatment for a growth that is a melanoma is not only to remove the melanoma but also to check the rest of the body for melanoma growth or spread. This is usually done by imaging with Cat Scan. Special attention is given to the chest and the abdomen along with surrounding lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are fluid draining structures in the face and body. They are often the first place that melanoma spreads.
What happens if the melanoma has spread? There may be a need in those circumstances to have chemotherapy to kill the melanoma cells in the rest of the body. If this happens care is made to try to regress the melanoma as much as possible.
The key thing in eyelid or facial melanoma treatment is to find it early before it has grown large or spread. If you a growing pigmented lesion on your face, it is important to have the growth checked and biopsied. This is the key to making sure that first you don’t have eyelid or facial cancer and second if you have a melanoma it is being treated appropriately.