Eyelid skin cancer has strange side effects

An eyelid tumor. (Credit: WFAA)

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on April 12, 2013 at 11:50 AM

Updated Sunday, Nov 10 at 11:04 AM

ARLINGTON –– As an ER nurse, 41-year-old Blane Camel is used to dealing with other people's medical crises.

Eight months ago, he experienced his own scare when he began crying tears of blood.

"And I wiped my eye thinking that there was something in my eye, and I realized that there was blood on my finger," Camel explains, "And went into the bathroom and noticed that I actually had blood pouring over my eyeball."

It turned out that Camel had a tumor beneath his eyelid.

Many people never consider applying sun block to eyelids. But, eyelid cancer accounts for up to 10 percent of all skin cancers, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

"It's usually a function of how many billions of hours of sun exposure you've had," says Texas Health Arlington medical oncologist Dr. Charles Deur. Dr. Deur says eyelid cancers often look like other common eye infections, like styes.

"Most of the time you get reddening, flaking," Deur said of the symptoms, "They usually get mistaken for cellulitis or infection of the eye. 'Maybe, I put something on my eye that I was allergic to.' Eye makeup gets blamed for a lot of it."

Surgery can be tricky, because there is not much excess skin on the eyelid. Patients often lose their entire lid. Early detection can make eyelid sparing surgery a better option.

Experts recommend wearing hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect the eyes and eyelids from damaging rays. Sunscreen is also recommended. Many make-ups also offer protection.

Camel doesn't know if sun exposure contributed to his rare form of eyelid cancer, called sebaceous carcinoma in situ, but he's not taking any chances in the future when it comes to sun protection.

"I've always been a hat wearer," Camel said, "But definitely going to wear more now."

Camel's carcinoma has the potential to spread, so he must have lung scans every six months for the next several years.

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