What Are Eyelid Tumors?
Eyelid tumors are very similar to skin tumors except they form on the upper or lower eyelids. They can be non-invasive (benign) or invasive (malignant).
Common benign eyelid tumors are:
Nevus — These are freckles with or without color that form on the eyelid or eyelid margin. These rarely become malignant.
Papilloma — A painless growth that is similar to a skin tag and most often seen in middle-aged or elderly people. These rarely become malignant.
Common malignant eyelid tumors are:
Basal cell carcinoma — The most common malignant eyelid tumor, basal cell carcinoma appears as a small lump. It is most often found on the lower eyelid and is more common in fair-skinned people between the ages of 50 and 80. It usually doesn’t spread, but basal cell carcinoma can grow deep into the soft tissues locally.
Squamous cell carcinoma — An aggressive tumor of the outer layer of the skin. It often results from excessive sun exposure and is usually found on the upper eyelid.
Sebaceous carcinoma — A rare, but potentially fatal tumor that is called the “great masquerader” because it is easy to mistake it for a stye or chronic eye inflammation. Usually this kind of tumor is found in people in their late 50s to early 70s. It can spread to the lymph nodes in front of the ears or underside of the jaw. The chances of dying increase with the size of the tumor.
The eyelids are one of the most common sites for non-melanoma skin cancers, with basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas accounting for 95 percent of eyelid tumors.
While common, eyelid skin cancers overall have low rates of spread. However, there is a high risk of damage to nearby eye structures with serious complications, including blindness.
As with all cancer, early detection of malignant tumors is critical. Unfortunately, because the growth pattern of the tumors tend to grow deeper into the skin rather than outward, it can be difficult to know how large a tumor has become until it is removed.
Eyelid tumor symptoms can vary, but commonly include:
Eye skin changes — Advanced stage tumors can ulcerate or display scaling or crusting.
Lesions — Tumors may appear as lumps, bumps or lesions on or under the skin of the eyelids.
Loss of eyelashes — Tumors located near eyelashes may result in loss of eyelashes.
Usually benign tumors don’t require active treatments, although they should be watched for changes. Those that become troublesome cosmetically, interfere with vision, or cause other eye irritations can be surgically removed.
Suspicious tumors require biopsy. If cancer is found, treatment options include:
Cryotherapy — The doctor uses a very cold metal probe to destroy cancer cells.
Laser treatments — A focused beam of light destroys cancer cells.
Radiation — High-powered X-ray beams are directed to the site of the tumor to kill the cancer cells.
Surgical excision — Removal of the tumor with surgery.
Topical chemotherapy — Chemotherapy cream or lotion is applied directly to the tumor.
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