Cancers And Benign Lesions Of The Eyelids: What is it?
Symptoms You May Experience:
Examination: What Your Eye Doctor Will Look For:
What You Can Do:
When To Call Your  M.D.:
Prognosis:  Will I See Better?
There are several types of cancer that occur on the eyelids.  The most common variety (90-95% of eyelid cancers) is basal cell carcinoma, which arises from eyelid skin.  Squamous cell carcinoma also grows from eyelid skin, while sebaceous cell carcinoma is a rare cancer of the eyelid oil glands.  Melanoma is a cancer of the pigmented cells in the skin.  In general, the risk that an eyelid lesion is cancerous increases with a history of heavy sun exposure, previous skin cancers, previous radiation, smoking, or a fair complexion.

Benign eyelid lesions, of which there are many types, can be cosmetically unsightly or irritating but pose less risk to the patients's health.  Some of these are precancerous, however over time they can develop into cancer.
You may see a growth on your eyelid.  Symptoms suggesting that a growth is cancerous include slow, painless growth, bleeding and crushing of the lesion, color changes, a pearly appearance, changes in the shape of the eyelid margin, loss of eyelashes, and abnormal blood vessels on the lesion.
Your eye doctor will examine your eyelid lesion and decide if there is a risk that it is cancerous.
Many eyelid growths are not preventable, but you can reduce your risk of developing some (especially many of the cancerous types) by avoiding excessive exposure to the sun and smoking.
You can see your ophthalmologist for any eyelid lesion that bothers you, but it is especially important to be examined promptly if the lesion is growing, bleeding, crusting, distorting the eyelid, changing color, or causing loss of eyelashes.  These signs may suggest that a lesion is cancerous.
When your doctor examines your eyelid lesion, he or she will decide if cancer is suspected.  If the lesion appears small and benign, it can usually be removed in the office.  You may require stitches and antibiotic ointment while it heals.  If your ophthalmologist suspects an eyelid cancer, he or she will take a sample of the lesion and send it to the lab to determine whether cancer is present and, if so, whether the edges of the sample are cancer-free.  If the lesion is large or if the edges of the sample still contain cancer, more of the lesion will have to be removed.  Removing large cancers can leave large defects in the eyelid, and in some ocases reconstructive surgery performed by a specially trained ophthalmologist or plastic surgeon may be necessary.
Many eyelid growths, both cancerous and benign, are easily treated by removing them surgically.  Larger or deeper growths may be more difficult to remove because of the defects left where the lesions were.  Fortunately, basal cell carcinoma, the most common eyelid cancer, rarely spreads to other areas of the body.  Other rarer types of eyelid cancer may behave more aggressively and sometimes require chemotherapy or radiation in addition to surgery.
Many growths occur on the eyelids, and these growths can be divided into those that are cancerous (about 15-20% of eyelid growths) and those that are non cancerous, or benign (80-85% of eyelid growths).  Most of these growths come from the skin of the eyelid itself.  It is important to recognize cancerous eyelid growths so they can be removed, just as skin cancers on other parts of the body should be removed, while benign eyelid growths are generally not harmful.
cancer on the eyelid
Above: Cancer Of The Eyelid (Click For Larger View)
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