Eye Melanoma

An Overview

Eye cancer is a general term used to describe the types of cancer that can develop on or within the eye. When people speak of this cancer, they are usually referencing ocular melanoma, the most common type of eye cancer found in adults. However, eye cancer can occur in children in the form of a disease called retinoblastoma. People with intraocular melanoma often have no symptoms. Many times, an ophthalmologist finds the melanoma during a regular eye examination. The most common symptom is painless loss of vision. It can also trouble exterior parts of the eye, such as the conjunctiva or eyelid. The most familiar eye cancer is retinoblastoma. Treatment for eye cancer differs by the type and its severity and includes many therapies and medications. Most eye melanomas form in the part of the eye you can’t see when looking in a mirror. This makes eye melanoma difficult to detect. In addition, eye melanoma typically doesn’t cause early signs or symptoms.

Symptoms of Eye Melanoma

Symptoms of eye cancer can vary from person to person based on the type of cancer involved. Sometimes people with eye cancer do not show any of these symptoms Or these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.

  • Having trouble seeing.
  • Blurred vision in one eye.
  • Seeing flashes of light.
  • Losing part of the field of vision.
  • Change in iris color.
  • Floaters (small, “floating” spots in the field of vision).
  • Bulging eye.
  • Red and/or painful eye.
  • Seeing flashes of light.
  • Seeing spots, squiggly lines or floating objects (floaters).
  • Having a dark spot on the iris. Unlike choroidal and ciliary body melanoma, iris melanoma can sometimes be seen because it looks like dark spots on the eye.
  • Persistent, unexplained muscle or joint pain.
  • Persistent, unexplained fevers or night sweats.
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising.
  • White reflex in the pupil.
  • One or several dark spots on the irish itself.
  • Loss of peripheral vision.

In the early stages of eye cancer, there may be few if any symptoms. In fact, it is not unusual for an optometrist to be the first person to notice Eye pain caused by the development of glaucoma.

Causes of Eye Melanoma

It’s not clear what causes eye melanoma.

Doctors know that eye melanoma occurs when errors develop in the DNA of healthy eye cells. The DNA errors tell the cells to grow and multiply out of control, so the mutated cells go on living when they would normally die. The mutated cells accumulate in the eye and form an eye melanoma. Melanoma is a very aggressive type of cancer that can spread rapidly. It usually is a type of skin cancer. The cancer may only be in the eye or  it may spread (metastasize) to another location in the body, most commonly the liver. Melanoma can also begin on the skin or other organs in the body and spread to the eye.

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Eye Exam: Your doctor will thoroughly examine your eyes, both outside and inside. Enlarged blood vessels on the outside of your eye are usually a sign of a tumor inside your eye.
  • Eye Ultrasound: An eye ultrasound may be used to produce images of the inside of your eye. The ultrasound transducer is placed on your closed eyelid or near the front surface of your eye.
  • Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): OCT is an imaging test used to create pictures of the inside of your eye.
  • Fluorescein Angiography: For this procedure,a fluorescent dye called fluoresce in is injected into your arm.

The three basic modalities of treatment of eye cancers include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. This section outlines treatments that are the standard of care (the best known treatments available) for this specific type of cancer. When making treatment plan decisions, patients are also encouraged to consider clinical trials as an option. The procedure is decided by a multidisciplinary team and customized to the needs of the individual patient. It depends on several factors. These include:

  • The type of eye cancer, it’s grade, which determines how aggressive it is, and its malignant potential.
  • The rate of tumor growth and its size and stage at presentation, the extent of spread locally and at distant sites.
  • The site of the tumor, whether it is on the eyelid, conjunctiva or within the eye or spread more extensively.

In some cases, surgery may also be used to place a radioactive disc for internal radiation therapy, also called brachytherapy. How eye cancer is treated depends on the tumor and whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.More information about radiation therapy is below.

  • Laser therapy: It directs a laser beam to destroy the tumor cells locally. Laser therapy uses lasers to shrink tumors. This treatment normally has fewer side effects than surgery or radiation therapy.
  • Surgery. Surgery is common in the treatment of eye cancer. During surgery, your ophthalmologist may remove parts of your eye depending on the size and spread of the tumor.
  • Radiotherapy: Delivers radiation that destroys the tumor cells, without affecting the surrounding delicate tissues, and several modern radiation treatments, such as proton therapy, are proven to have a better track record in accuracy in dose delivery, minimizing collateral damage to the surrounding.
  • Chemotherapy: Involves the use of special drugs which may be administered orally or by injection to fight the cancer cells.

Risk Factor

Risk factors for primary melanoma of the eye include:

  • People with blue eyes or green eyes have a greater risk of melanoma of the eye.
  • White people have a greater risk of eye melanoma than do people of other races.
  • The risk of eye melanoma increases with age.
  • Eye melanoma can spread outside of the eye and to distant areas of the body, including the liver, lungs and bones.
  • A condition called dysplastic nevus syndrome, which causes abnormal moles, may increase your risk of developing melanoma on your skin and in your eye.

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