Sebaceous carcinoma

Overview

Sebaceous carcinoma is a rare type of cancer that begins in an oil gland in the skin. Sebaceous carcinoma most often affects the eyelids.

Sebaceous carcinoma may begin as a painless lump or thickening of skin on the eyelid. On other parts of the body it might cause a bump on the skin that may bleed or have a scab.

Sebaceous carcinoma treatment often involves surgery to remove the cancer. Sebaceous carcinoma can grow quickly and sometimes spreads to other parts of the body.

Sebaceous carcinoma on the eyelid

Diagnosis

Tests and procedures used to diagnose sebaceous carcinoma include:

  • Skin exam. Your health care provider will carefully inspect your skin to understand your condition.
  • Eye exam. If you have sebaceous carcinoma on your eyelid, you might need to see an eye doctor. Eye doctors are also called ophthalmologists. The eye doctor will carefully check your eyelid and your eye. The eye doctor looks for signs that cancer has spread to the tissue that covers the inside of your eyelid and the white of your eye.
  • Skin biopsy. Your provider will remove a small amount of tissue for testing. Specialized lab tests can determine if cancer cells are present.

Treatment

Sebaceous carcinoma treatment often involves surgery to remove the cancer. Other treatments might be options in certain situations.

Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer. Your health care provider may recommend a procedure to remove the cancer and some of the healthy tissue that surrounds it. A specialist will examine the edges of the tissue to make sure no cancer cells are present. This makes it more likely that all of the cancer cells are removed during surgery.
  • Mohs surgery. Mohs surgery is a specialized type of surgery that involves removing thin layers of cancer-containing skin until only cancer-free tissue is left. After each layer of skin is removed, it's checked for signs of cancer. The process keeps going until there are no signs of cancer. This technique may be helpful if your cancer is in a spot where surgeons want to preserve as much of the healthy skin as possible. Examples include the eyelid and the face.
  • Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses powerful energy beams, such as X-rays and protons, to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that might remain. Radiation therapy may be used alone if surgery isn't an option.
  • Clinical trials. Clinical trials to test new treatments may be an option. Ask your provider whether you're eligible to participate in a clinical trial.

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