a) What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a serious type of skin cancer which can affect the eyelids. It grows from cells called melanocytes, which normally produce pigment in our skin, hair, and eyes. This gives them a dark and pigmented appearance Eyelid melanoma, although less common than other skin tumours, is dangerous because it can spread around the body if not treated early.
b) What are the symptoms of melanoma?
The following skin changes may be due to melanoma:
• Increased pigmentation or darkening of the skin
• A new mole
• A change in an existing mole
These are more likely to have an irregular shape, be more than one colour, and grow quickly.
c) What are the risks of getting eyelid melanoma?
The following increase your risk of getting eyelid melanoma:
• Pale skin
• Large numbers of moles or freckles
• Red or blond hair
• Blue eyes
• Poor immune system (e.g. HIV)
Melanoma can be prevented with good skin care when travelling abroad or in sunny climates. Careful monitoring of pigmented areas of skin is key to detecting skin melanoma early.
d) Will I need any tests?
We will likely take photographs to monitor changes. If the diagnosis is uncertain we may take remove all of the abnormal area and send it to the laboratory for where a diagnosis can be made . If it is suspected that the melanoma has started to spread to other parts of the body then we may organise the following scans:
• CT scan
• MRI scan
Blood tests, including liver function tests, may be carried out if spread to the liver is suspected. Liver ultrasounds carried out every year to monitor for spread at your local hospital.
e) What is the treatment for eyelid melanoma?
If radiotherapy or chemotherapy is needed, our medical oncologist and pathologist will help guide our treatment.
f) What happens if the eye melanoma spreads to different parts of the body?
This can be scary and upsetting. If spread of disease has been picked up we involve other health professionals at our MDT (multidisciplinary team) meeting. Our clinical team consists of a radiologist, pathologist, and a medical oncologist. Collectively we will decide on the rights tests and treatments for you as an individual. Accepting and coming to terms with the diagnosis can be challenging. For this reason, we have specialist ophthalmic nursing staff in the clinic who are here to council and help you through this difficult time.