Since we’re so near the water here in Chicago, and the sun exposure that goes with activities such as hanging out on the shore and boating, most of us know about skin cancer caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. But when we think of skin cancer, most of us look at our arms, our back, our nose, our legs, maybe even our scalp. The goal is to spot suspicious-looking growths that are either skin cancer or precursors to skin cancer.
When was the last time you checked your eyelids?
Eyelid tumors are more common than you think. While most of these tumors and lesions are benign, involving the sweat glands, oil glands, eyelash follicles, and skin elements, some eyelid tumors are malignant and need to be removed. The most common malignant eyelid tumor is the basal cell carcinoma form of skin cancer.
The team at Millennium Park can successfully remove that tumor and maintain proper function of your eyelid.
What are the most common types of eyelid cancer?
When you consider the degree our eyelids are exposed to the sun, it’s shouldn’t be surprising that they develop skin cancer. In fact, around 90 percent of all eyelid cancers are basal cell carcinoma skin cancer. Fortunately, eyelid cancer is generally categorized as epithelial tumors, meaning they are on the outer surface of the eyelid.
- Basal cell carcinomas are located under the squamous cells in the lower epidermis. Basal cells make up 80 percent of all skin cancers. They usually appear on the lower eyelid.
- Squamous cell carcinomas can also form on the eyelids. They form on the top layer of the epidermis, the squamous cells. Far less common, this form of skin cancer grows more aggressively to nearby tissues.
- Sebaceous carcinoma is not a skin cancer, but this is the second most common cancer of the eyelids. It usually starts in the meibomian glands that secrete a fatty fluid that lubricates the eyes. Sebaceous carcinoma usually occurs on the upper eyelid.
Surgical options to remove eyelid tumors
At Millennium Park Eye Center, we generally use three surgical options when removing eyelid tumors, whether cancerous or benign. These surgeries are usually immediately followed by reconstructive surgery to maintain eyelid function and aesthetic appearance.
- Biopsy — When a tumor is biopsied to find out if it is cancerous, it can be either incisional (taking part of the tumor) or excisional (taking the entire tumor). If the growth turns out to be benign, excisional biopsy may be all that’s needed.
- Mohs surgery — Mohs surgery is used whenever possible due to the delicate characteristics of the eyelids. When using Mohs surgery, our surgeons remove the visible eyelid tumor, along with fragments of the healthy skin at the tumor edge. This edge tissue is then immediately examined under a microscope to see if still contains any cancer cells. If cancer cells are still present, an additional ring of tissue is removed until cancerous cells no longer are present.
- Cryosurgery — While this isn’t surgery involving a scalpel, cryosurgery can be an effective method of removing tumors without removing additional tissue. Cryosurgery uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill cancer cells. The frozen cells and skin blister and peel off.
Do you suspect you have a growth on one of your eyelids? Call the team at Millennium Park Eye Center, (312) 346-5292, to make your appointment.