Sebaceous carcinoma is a rare form of skin cancer. Normally, cells in the body will grow and divide to replace old or damaged cells. This growth is usually precise. Once enough cells are produced to replace the old ones, normal cells stop dividing. Cancerous tumors occur when there is an error and cells continue to grow uncontrollably. With sebaceous carcinoma, cancer develops in the sebaceous glands (oil glands) of the skin. While it can develop anywhere on the body, it usually grows on the eyelid. However, it can spread (metastasize) if untreated.
Sebaceous carcinoma is easily misdiagnosed and thus is usually only found in its later stages. Successful treatment depends on age, stage and location of cancer, and other factors.
What are the symptoms of sebaceous carcinoma?
Sebaceous carcinoma often develops on the eyelid as a painless, slow-growing lump. However, they may form on other parts of the body. Sebaceous carcinoma is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms mimic other, less serious eye conditions. Other signs and symptoms on the eyelid may include:
- Pimple-like growth
- Growth that bleeds
- Sore that will not heal
- Thickening, yellow or reddish crust in the eyelid
What are the causes of sebaceous carcinoma?
There’s a possible association between Muir-Torre syndrome (a rare, genetic condition) and sebaceous carcinoma. However, there are no clear causes for this cancer. It’s usually diagnosed in those over 50 years old. Other risk factors may include:
- Unprotected sun exposure
- Weakened immune system
- Previous radiation therapy to the head or neck
How is sebaceous carcinoma diagnosed?
Since sebaceous carcinoma is often misdiagnosed, the average diagnosis is usually delayed 1-3 years. First, your doctor will learn your and your family’s medical history and perform a physical exam. Your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist (skin specialist). A dermatologist may perform a physical exam and also one or more of the following tests:
- Blood tests
- Skin examination
- Eye examination by ophthalmologist (eye doctor)
- Biopsy (removing a tiny piece to tissue for examination
To learn how severe the cancer may be, your doctor will classify it by stage and grade.
How is sebaceous carcinoma treated?
Depending on the type for sebaceous carcinoma, treatment may include:
- Radiation therapy
- Cryotherapy (cold therapy)
- Mohs surgery (specialized surgery that removes cancer from the skin in layers)
Your treatment will depend on age, overall health, cancer stage, cancer size and location, and other factors.