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Skin cancers on the face and eyelids are primarily caused by excess sun exposure. Basal cell and squamous cell are the most common cancers on the eyelid skin (commonly lower eyelid), eyelid margins, eyebrow, corners of the eye and adjacent areas of the face. They usually appear as nodules, and some may involve missing or distorted eyelashes, bleeding or crusting that won’t heal. Melanomas are often moles that bleed, become tender or change in shape or size. When cancer develops in oil glands, sebaceous gland carcinoma makes eyelids thick or inflamed. Immediate attention is critical to stopping the spread of the cancer, especially the fast-spreading melanoma and sebaceous gland carcinomas.
The recommended procedure to diagnose skin cancer is a biopsy. Using minimally invasive techniques to remove the cancer at the earliest stage offers the best chance to stop the spread. Melanoma and sebaceous gland carcinomas are best treated with more aggressive techniques to reduce the chance of the tumor spreading. In most cases, these can be done as outpatient procedures with local anesthesia and occasionally light sedation. After removing the tumor, reconstructive surgery can repair the eyelid to ensure proper function, protect the eye and preserve vision.
Eyelid skin cancer requires a delicate, highly skilled technique to remove the cancer completely while minimizing the damage, and to reconstruct the area for functionality and cosmetic appearance. Scarring cannot be avoided, but an oculoplastic surgeon is trained to perform both the surgery and the reconstruction for best results.