Skin cancer under eye: Early Detection and Best Treatment

Skin cancer under eye

A pimple growing under your eye could be an eyelid skin cancer. Especially if it lasts from two weeks to a month or more and causes pain, you should definitely consult an experienced dermatologist. Because a dermatologist can diagnose your eyelid skin cancer more accurately than any other doctor.

Different types of cancer can occur in your eyelids such as basal cell carcinoma, sebaceous carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma. In most cases, this type of skin cancer grows in the human body as a result of the ultraviolet rays of the sun. This is why it is so important to use sunscreen to protect the skin from the sun’s UV rays.

It can be said that this article has been written with a detailed description about the skin cancer under eye. So keep reading for details.

How Common Is Skin Cancer Under Eye?

Studies have shown that eyelid skin cancer accounts for 5 to 10 percent of all other skin cancer. And among all types of eyelid skin cancer, the rate of skin cancer under eye is the highest.

First, UV rays from the sun are responsible for eyelid skin cancer, but burnt or damaged skin can also cause this type of skin cancer.

On March 29, 2023, an online news website in Australia revealed the back story of a man named Wayne Grimley who was diagnosed with eyelid skin cancer. He spent a lot of time in the sun on the Gold Coast since childhood and neglected to use any kind of sunscreen. After a long decade, he realized that he had skin cancer on his eyelids which, if not treated in time, would have almost destroyed his eyes.

How serious is Skin Cancer Under Eye?

People who spend most of their time under the sun’s ultraviolet rays are more likely to develop a skin cancer under eye, such as people in the sea beach area. That is why it is important to use sunscreen. 

Skin cancer under Eye, called basal cell carcinoma, is the most common type of eyelid skin cancer. The rate of this type of eyelid skin cancer is 80 to 90 percent of all types of eyelid skin cancer. It is unlikely to spread to other parts of the body, but if not treated in time, it can completely destroy your eyes. So it is necessary to detect it at an early stage. 

Skin Cancer Under Eye

However, other types of eyelid skin cancer such as squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma and sebaceous cell carcinoma have the potential to spread to other parts of the body. But the chance of this type of eyelid skin cancer is very low. 

How can you tell if you have a pimple or skin cancer Under Eye?

A lump under your eyelid could be a simple sore or pimple, or it could be an eyelid cancer. Since pimples are so common on our face, many people may mistake cancer for a normal pimple. But when it gradually becomes chronic, it definitely becomes a cause for concern and it may be too late.

So, as advised by doctors, when you have the following symptoms on your lesion or pimple, it must be examined by a certified dermatologist.

Symptoms of Eyelid Skin Cancer

  1. A red or pink-colored sore with a central lesion.
  2. Small pimples that do not heal or come back again and again.
  3. Abnormally falling eyelashes.
  4. Pimples that are crusty and itchy and bleed and won’t heal.
  5. In some cases, instead of being large pimples, there may be very small spots that are crusty and itchy.
  6. If that pimple or bruise or scar is causing your vision problems.
  7. Appearance of dark spots on the whites of the eyes or in the iris area.

If you notice pimples under your eyes among the above symptoms, definitely consult a dermatologist.

Causes of skin cancer under eye

Eyelid skin is very sensitive and has a thinner coating than the skin on other parts of our body. A small amount of pressure can damage the DNA or cells inside the eyelid that can lead to cancer.

Moreover, there are certain risk factors that can cause cancer under your eyes.

  1. UV Radiation: The sun’s UV rays damage the cells inside the thin skin of your eyelids. As a result, there is a possibility of uncontrolled cell production which leads to tumor or cancer. That is why it is very important to use sunscreen or sunglasses for those who stay in the sun for a long time.
  2. Fair or White skin: White skin is favorable for skin cancer. Because white skin has much less protective pigment melanin than black skin. Melanin helps the skin absorb UV rays and protects the skin. But recent studies have shown that people with darker skin are more likely to die from this cancer. This is due to late detection of cancer.
  1. Gender and Age: Studies have shown that men are more likely to develop skin cancer under eye than women. And this cancer is usually more common in people 60 years of age or older, but it can also occur in younger people.
  1. Burnt Skin: If the skin is already burnt due to sun exposure or due to any disease or any other reason then there is a high chance of skin cancer or eyelid cancer.
  2. History of previous skin cancer: If you have a previous history of skin cancer, it can come back even after you are completely cured. That means it could be a risk factor for your eyelid skin cancer. (National library of medicine)

Types of Eyelid Cancer

Eyelid cancer is divided into several different categories. Eyelid cancer is classified based on the exact location of the eyelid and whether it is likely to spread to other areas. When doctors check your eyes for cancer, they will also check the stage or type of eyelid cancer.

Let’s see how doctors describe the types of eyelid cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma

There are mainly 3 types of eyelid skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma being the most common of them. It has the highest rate of all other types of skin cancer. And it is 90%. It occurs in the lower eyelids. 

This cancer is mainly caused by the sun’s UV rays, but it is not likely to spread from one part of the body to another like other cancers.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for 5 to 10% of all eyelid cancers. And, it is reported to be the second highest among all types of eyelid cancer.

A long-term study conducted from 1992 to 2001 revealed that 66 percent of all patients diagnosed over a nine-year period were male and the remaining 34% were female. 

In the study, 51% of all affected patients were correctly diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma.  Among the rest, the distinction between BCC and SCC was very difficult and not properly proven even by experienced doctors. 

Malignant Melanoma

Melanoma is a very rare type of eyelid cancer. It accounts for 1% of all eyelid cancers. At first no symptoms can be identified. But gradually the following symptoms appear.

  • Vision in the affected eye becomes blurred and peripheral vision is lost.
  • Dark spots are clearly visible on the whites of the eyes.
  • Moreover, dark spots can also appear in the iris area of the eyes.

The doctor will take the help of ultrasonography, biopsy or angiography to make the correct diagnosis. This type of cancer is usually treated using radiotherapy. 

Sebaceous carcinoma

Sebaceous carcinoma rarely occurs in the human eye. And the exact cause of this type of eyelid cancer is still unknown, but like all other types of eyelid cancer, UV rays from the sun are thought to be responsible. And in some cases, prior radiation therapy to the head or neck can also cause this type of eyelid cancer. 

This cancer mostly affects the surface of the eyelids and causes swelling of the eyelids. A kind of yellow pimple appears on the eyelids. If not treated on time, this cancer can spread to surrounding areas.

Merkel cell carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is rare among all types of skin cancer under eye. But it is very dangerous. It can spread from the affected area to nearby areas or even to distant areas. It mostly affects the upper eyelids and can gradually cover the entire eye with a wart-like appearance. This cancer is usually found in patients aged 65 years or older. It rarely spreads to younger people.

Although no exact cause of this cancer has been identified, the Merkel cell polyoma virus has been identified in 80% of Merkel cell carcinomas. Apart from this virus, the ultraviolet rays of the sun are also responsible for this cancer.

Treatment of skin cancer under eye

Any type of cancer is treated by a group of different doctors and specialists working together called a multidisciplinary team. The following doctors usually work together to treat skin cancer under eye. 

  1. Dermatologist
  2. A surgeon
  3. Radiation oncologist
  4. Specialist in eye diseases and treatment
  5. Medical oncologist

Different types of treatment for skin cancer under eye

Currently, there are several types of treatment methods that can be used to treat skin cancer under eye. The type of treatment a patient will receive depends on the stage and type of the cancer and physical and mental capabilities of the patient. Skin cancer under eye is usually treated with the following treatments. 

  • Biopsy: A biopsy is a medical procedure in which cancer cells and some surrounding normal tissue are surgically removed. It may be the only way to get rid of your cancer if all other treatments fail.
  • Cryosurgery: Cryosurgery is also called cryotherapy. In this method, the cancerous cells are killed by freezing them using nitrogen. 
  • Radiation therapy: In this procedure, a doctor regularly uses external radiation to kill the DNA of your cancer cells over a period of time. The doctor may apply it to your body five to seven days a week, and in some cases, if it is more urgent, it may be applied more than once a day. However, this treatment method has some side effects like cataracts, eyelash shedding, fatigue etc.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy the DNA of cancer cells. And all the drugs that are used in this method can be taken as pills or capsules or as liquids. It detects and destroys cancerous DNA as it circulates in your blood. But it has some side effects due to which it is always used as a second treatment.

Recovery After Eyelid Cancer Surgery

After eyelid cancer removal surgery, you may face several challenges in getting back to a normal life. So you must take care of yourself like a lung cancer patient does after surgery. Following are the issues that you have to deal with after eyelid cancer surgery surgery. 

  1. During surgery, the doctor may cut out part of your eyelid and sew it back together. This can cause the area to swell.
  2. Eyelids will be sore after surgery.
  3. You may not see clearly for a few days because your vision will be a little blurry.
  4. Looking down will make your eyelids stiffen and you will feel uncomfortable.
  5. Looking at bright lights can cause pain in your eyes.
  6. Eyelids may not be fully closed while sleeping. 

To deal with the above problems you need to follow certain guidelines as advised by your doctor. which may be

  1. Get enough rest because your eyes need rest.
  2. Be careful when looking at any type of screen like TV, computer or mobile for a certain amount of time and don’t look at it unless absolutely necessary.
  3. Be careful not to touch your eyes with any kind of soap or shampoo while taking a shower.
  4. Avoid swimming until the eye sore is completely healed.
  5. Avoid dust.
  6. Use glasses.
  7. Take eye drops and pain medication as directed by your doctor.
  8. If you experience unusual pain, consult your doctor immediately.

Conclusion

We all understand the importance of eyes so take care of them. If you notice anything suspicious in your eye, be sure to see a doctor, and if it’s likely to be cancer, be sure to get it checked out by a dermatologist. Because if you have a skin cancer under eye or anywhere else on your body, a dermatologist can diagnose it sooner or more accurately than any other doctor.

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