Tumor reconstruction on the eye and face | skin cancer

Tampa Bay oculoplastic surgeon, Jennifer Landy, MD

Skin cancer commonly involves the eyelids and adjacent face. Excessive exposure to sunlight is the most common risk factor and cause of skin cancer. Fair skinned people are more susceptible to developing skin cancer than darker skinned people. Skin cancers of the eyelids and face typically appear as painless nodules. They may have a crusty, inflamed appearance and the lashes may be distorted or absent in the area of the skin cancer. They are typically slow growing and the two most common types, basal cell and squamous cell cancer do not typically metastasize (spread to distant sites in the body). However if neglected they can invade adjacent tissues. More aggressive types of eyelid skin cancer including melanoma and sebaceous cell carcinoma can metastasize and therefore early detection with prompt surgical intervention is very important in the management of eyelid cancers.

The two most important principles in the management of eyelid skin cancers are removal of the tumor and reconstruction of the eyelid. Typically a biopsy is initially performed to confirm the diagnosis. The tumor is then excised under frozen section (the pathologist checks that the margins are free of tumor while the patient is in the operating room). Once that has been achieved, the eyelid is reconstructed so that it functions properly, protects the eye, preserves vision and has a satisfactory cosmetic appearance. The patient is typically followed every six months to assure that there is no recurrence of the tumor.