Sebaceous carcinoma is an extremely rare skin cancer that arises from the sebaceous glands in the skin. These glands are located throughout the surface area of your skin and are responsible for producing the oils, known as sebum, and open onto your hair follicles. Sebaceous cell carcinomas are most commonly found in the head and neck region, especially the eyelids, but can develop anywhere on the body. Sebaceous cell carcinomas are more common in older patients (>40 years old) and Caucasians. The cause of these cancers is unknown and there is no clear link to sun exposure. A small percentage of cases are related to a genetic syndrome called Muir-Torre syndrome.
Diagnosis: Sebaceous cell carcinoma typically presents with a slowly enlarging firm subcutaneous nodule [photo sebaceous carcinoma]. This should be evaluated promptly by your doctor. Once confirmed, your physician may evaluate the lymph nodes with exam and/or imaging. A sentinel lymph node biopsy [SLNB link] and/or surgical removal of lymph nodes [neck dissection link] may be recommended by your doctor
Treatment and Outcomes: Treatment of sebaceous cell cancer is generally surgery [WLE link] to remove the cancer along with a wide rim of normal tissue around it. [WLE link]. If the sentinel lymph node biopsy was done and was positive, your doctor may recommend removal of the lymph nodes in the face or neck that drain your cancer.. This may also include removal of a portion of the saliva gland called the parotid gland which contains lymph nodes overlying the face. In some cases, patients may require radiation or chemotherapy after surgery.
Surveillance and Survivorship: Sebaceous carcinoma can recur as late as 5-10 years after treatment. Therefore, patients should be followed regularly by their doctor after treatment indefinitely.
Article by Karen Choi, MD