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Eye Cancer Symptoms In Adults

What Is Eye Cancer In Adults And Children

What are the first signs of eye cancer? – Dr. Sunita Rana Agarwal

Eye cancer generally affects the outer part of your eyes, like the eyelid. Intraocular cancer starts inside the eyeball. The most common intraocular eye cancers in adults are Intraocular Melanoma and Intraocular Lymphoma. The most common type of eye cancer in children is Retinoblastoma which begins in the cells of your childs retina.

Based on the origin of the cancer cells, treatment will be suggested by your medical expert. Like all other cancers, eye cancer also, if detected at an early stage, can be treated.

How Is Intraocular Melanoma Diagnosed

You will need to see a specially trained eye doctor . The doctor will ask you about your health history, symptoms, risk factors, family history of disease. They will give you a detailed eye exam. During the exam, the doctor will use a special scope with a light to look at the inside of your eye.

Your eye doctor may be able to diagnose intraocular melanoma just by looking at your eye. But you may also need one of these tests:

  • Ultrasound. This test uses high-frequency sound waves to see the inside of your eye. Its often used because melanomas in your eye have a certain look when seen on ultrasound. It can also show where the tumor is and how big it is.
  • MRI. MRIs use radio waves and strong magnets to make an image. This test is helpful in learning the size of the tumor. Its often used to check if the cancer has spread beyond the eye.
  • Angiography. During this procedure, your healthcare provider injects dye into a blood vessel in your arm. Then they take pictures of your eye as the dye moves through it. The dye helps to show any changes more clearly.
  • Biopsy. Your healthcare provider may need to take a small tissue sample from the growth. This is rarely done because other tests work well to diagnose intraocular melanoma.

Once your cancer is staged, your healthcare provider will talk with you about what the stage means for your treatment. Ask your healthcare provider to explain the stage of your cancer to you in a way you can understand.

Treatments For Eye Melanoma

Treatment for melanoma of the eye depends on the size and location of the tumour.

Your care team will explain each treatment option in detail, including the benefits and any potential complications.

Treatment will aim to conserve the affected eye whenever possible.

The main treatments for eye melanoma are:

  • brachytherapy tiny plates lined with radioactive material called plaques are inserted near the tumour and left in place for up to a week to kill the cancerous cells
  • external radiotherapy a machine is used to carefully aim beams of radiation at the tumour to kill the cancerous cells
  • surgery to remove the tumour or part of the eye this may be possible if the tumour is small and you still have some vision in your eye
  • removal of the eye this may be necessary if the tumour is large or you have lost your vision the eye will eventually be replaced with an artificial eye that matches your other eye

Chemotherapy is rarely used for eye melanoma, but may be suitable for other types of eye cancer.

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How To Prevent Eye Cancer

There are various risk factors for eye cancer, not all of which can be managed or prevented. For example, some eye cancers have a genetic cause. However, you can limit your exposure to ultraviolet light by wearing UV protective sunglasses and limiting time spent in strong sunlight or on sunbeds. Regular eye tests will also help ensure cancer is detected sooner rather than later, allowing a better chance for effective treatment.

What Are The Causes Of Eye Cancer

Retinoblastoma: Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

Eye cancer is rare, and generally, the older you are, the greater the risk. An exception is retinoblastoma which occurs in very young children. The risk factors for different types of eye cancer can vary.

The following risk factors play a role in several types of eye cancer:

  • Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light, for example, from sunbeds.
  • Age: nearly one in four people diagnosed with eye cancer are over 75 .
  • A mutation in the BAP1 gene can increase the risk of developing a range of cancers.

For eye melanoma, the risk factors include:

  • Light eye colour: people with blue, green, and grey eyes are more at risk of eye melanoma than people with dark coloured eyes.
  • Irregular moles: people with irregular moles are more likely to develop skin cancer and eye melanoma.

For squamous cell cancer, the risk factors include:

  • Taking medicines that suppress the immune system, for example, after an organ transplant.
  • Having an HIV or HPV infection.

For eye lymphoma, the risk factors include:

  • Weakened immune system, for example, through autoimmune disease, HIV or AIDS, or taking medication to stop organ transplant rejection.

For retinoblastoma, the risk factors include:

  • Age: it’s most common in very young children as it affects cells in the developing retina.
  • Genetics: around four in 10 cases of retinoblastoma are due to an inheritable gene defect.

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What Is Eye Cancer

The term eye canceror ocular canceris used to cover a number of malignant conditions that can affect the eyes, including:

  • Intraocular melanoma: This is the most common cancer that originates in eyes, specifically in the uvea. This is the middle layer of the eye between the white layer at the front of the eye and the retina.
  • Intraocular lymphoma: This occurs mostly in older adults. It can develop in the retina or in the jelly-like vitreous. Eye lymphoma usually affects both eyes at the same time. There may be blurred vision, pain, floaters, and sensitivity to light, among other signs.
  • Retinoblastoma: This is a very rare childhood cancer. It starts in the cells of the retina, and is usually diagnosed after a doctor or a parent sees that a childs eye looks unusual. There may be other signs, such as vision problems, or lazy eye , in which the eyes appear to be looking in different directions.

The most common cancers affecting the eye actually dont start there. Instead, these cancers originate elsewhere in the bodyespecially the breasts and lungsand spread to the eye, most often to the uvea.

How To Detect Eye Cancer

Sometimes eye cancer is found during a routine eye exam at the opticians. If your optician or GP suspects you may have eye cancer, they will refer you to an ophthalmologist, a specialist eye doctor.

Ophthalmologists use various tests to diagnose eye cancer. Some tests help determine the stage of your cancer to help your healthcare team plan appropriate treatment. Tests can include:

  • Ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create images of the eye and around it.
  • Fluorescein angiogram in which a special dye is injected into the bloodstream. This shows in the eye, allowing more detailed images.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging scan which uses magnetism to create detailed images.
  • A blood test to allow genetic testing.
  • Occasionally, a lumbar puncture to check for cancer cells in the brain and spinal cord.

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Diagnosing Melanoma Of The Eye

If your GP or optician suspects you have a serious problem with your eyes, they’ll refer you to a specialist eye doctor called an ophthalmologist for an assessment.

If they suspect you have melanoma of the eye, they’ll refer you to a specialist centre for eye cancer.

There are 4 centres in the UK, located in London, Sheffield, Liverpool and Glasgow.

It’s likely you’ll have a number of different tests at the centre, including:

  • an eye examination to look at the structures of your eyes in more detail and check for abnormalities
  • an ultrasound scan of your eye a small probe placed over your closed eye uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the inside of your eye this allows your doctor to find out more about the position of the tumour and its size
  • a fluorescein angiogram where photographs of the suspected cancer are taken using a special camera after dye has been injected into your bloodstream to highlight the tumour

Occasionally, a thin needle may be used to remove a small sample of cells from the tumour .

The genetic information in these cells is analysed to give an indication of the chances of the cancer spreading or coming back.

What Are The Symptoms Of Intraocular Melanoma

Ocular Melanoma: What You Need to Know | Tara McCannel, MD | UCLAMDChat

A small growth may not cause any symptoms. As it grows larger, your symptoms may include:

  • Blurry vision or sudden vision loss
  • Soreness in an eye, or bulging of the eye
  • Flashes or floaters in your vision
  • Dark spot on your iris, the colored ring at the front of your eye
  • Change in the shape of your pupil, the black circle in the center of your eye
  • A change in the way your eye moves or looks

Many of these may be caused by other health problems. So its important to see a healthcare provider if you have these symptoms. Your healthcare provider will do an exam and testing to find out if you have cancer.

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What Is Ocular Melanoma

There are many different types of cancer that can affect the eye, but ocular melanoma is the most common. Melanoma is a type of cancer that develops in the cells of the body that produce melanin the pigment that gives your skin its colour. Your eyes also have melanin-producing cells and can develop melanoma. Ocular melanoma is also known as uveal melanoma, intraocular melanoma or eye melanoma.

It is estimated that more than 400 people were diagnosed with ocular melanoma in 2022. The average age at diagnosis is 62 years old.

What Is A 5

A relative survival rate compares people with the same type and stage of cancer to people in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific stage of eye cancer is 80%, it means that people who have that cancer are, on average, about 80% as likely as people who dont have that cancer to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.

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How Is Eye Cancer Treated

Tumors on the surface of the eye can be managed by topical chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation, or surgical excision. The typical treatment for cancers inside the eye is radiation in the form of brachytherapy. This is most commonly used for uveal melanoma, but it can be used for other eye cancers as well.

Brachytherapy for the eye is delivered by a plaque made of gold, about the size of a quarter, with radioactive seeds on the surface. Radiation oncologists and physicists configure the seeds based on the location and size of the tumor, so that vital surrounding structures will be protected. Each plaque is custom-designed for the patient. Once it is ready, the ophthalmologist surgically applies it onto the surface of the eye, where it emits radiation directly over the tumor.

A patient who has had brachytherapy goes home with a patch over the eye. Once adequate radiation is applied, based on the tumor thicknesstypically after a few daysit is surgically removed.

Other Types Of Eye Cancer


Apart from melanoma and lymphoma, other types of eye cancer affect the outer parts of the eyes. Lacrimal gland cancer falls into this category, which affects the tear glands found above or on the side of your eye. It mainly affects people over thirty years of age who have fair or lighter skin tones, and can be seen as a red patch or burn below the eyes. Eyelid cancer is also another type that affects the lower eyelid because of staying in the sun for too long. This kind of cancer is also referred to as basal cell carcinoma, and it is easy to treat if detected early.

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Is Cancer Of The Eye Curable

Your prognosis, or likely treatment outcome, depends on many factors, including the tumors size, location and how much its spread. For example, brachytherapy eliminates 95% of small and medium intraocular melanomas. Eye cancer may not be curable. However, its growth within your eyeball can be contained.

Ask your healthcare provider about your prognosis based on your specific type of eye cancer.

Eye Cancer Survival Rates

Survival rates can give you an idea of what percentage of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time after they were diagnosed. They cant tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding of how likely it is that your treatment will be successful.

Keep in mind that survival rates are estimates and are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had a specific cancer, but they cant predict what will happen in any particular persons case. These statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Your doctor is familiar with yoursituation ask how these numbers may apply to you.

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Common Causes Of Eye Cancer

Cancers are usually the result of many factors, most of which are out of your control. Cancer may develop in folks who have zero risk factors but are subject to unfortunate circumstances and a roll of the figurative dice. Eye cancer affects different genders equally, but after age 50 it is found more often in men.

Sometimes the warning signs of brain cancer are so subtle, can go unnoticed or are so common that they are often confused with other conditions.

Known risk factors:

  • Those with light colored skin, eyes and hair. People with these features have less melanin.
  • Those with atypical skin moles. Research shows that people with certain types of moles have increased risk of developing intraocular melanoma.
  • Those who use welding equipment. By profession, welders have a higher risk because of their welding tools. This is likely a result of exposure to ultraviolet radiation , which is damaging to the eyes.
  • Those who use tanning beds. Tanning beds are known to give off UVR.
  • Those with HIV or AIDS. The virus weakens the immune system, which increases risk.

Less common risk factors:

  • Those with primary acquired melanosis. This condition affects the mucus membrane around the eyes and increases risk of melanoma of the conjunctiva
  • Those with ocular melanocytosis. This is a rare condition of the eye where those affected have more melanocytes and more melanin in and around the eyes

Key Points About Intraocular Melanoma

How do you know if you have eye cancer? – Dr. Sunita Rana Agarwal
  • Intraocular melanoma is cancer that starts in the melanocytes in your eyes.
  • Its rare, but it’s still the most common type of cancer of the eye in adults.
  • Risk factors for it are being older and having fair skin and light-colored eyes.
  • Symptoms may include blurry vision, eye soreness, or floaters in your vision.
  • Exposure to UV light is linked to this cancer. Protect your eyes with sunglasses with 99% to 100% ultraviolet A and B protection.
  • Treatments for this cancer include surgery, radiation, and photocoagulation.

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Diagnosis Of Ocular Melanoma

If your doctor or optometrist thinks that you may have ocular melanoma, they will carry out certain tests.

If the results suggest that you may have ocular melanoma, your doctor will refer you to a specialist doctor called an ophthalmologist who specialises in ocular oncology. The ophthalmologist will carry out more tests that may include:

Laser Therapy And Cryotherapy

Laser therapy uses extreme light and heat to reduce a tumor and kill the cancerous cells. It is a safer method with fewer side effects, so this method is mainly used to treat retinoblastoma in kids. Laser therapy can also be used interchangeably with radiation to kill cancer cells and help with treatment-related complications. Cryotherapy uses low temperature to freeze the malignant tissue so it can be inflamed. It is a wonderful treatment for eyelid tumors and conjunctival melanoma, and it is done under anesthesia. Too much heat or cold can be used to treat eye cancer by destroying the cells and tissues. Both of these methods are relatively painless and have fewer side effects.

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Where Eye Tumors Appear

The most common type of eye tumor is metastatic. This means it’s a secondary eye tumor caused by cancer that has spread from one part of the body to another. For example, cancer may have started in the lung, breast, bowel, or prostate.

Ocular melanoma is the most common primary adult tumor that forms in the eye. However, it is still rare. This tumor is also called uveal melanoma or choroidal melanoma.

The tumor is made from cells in the eye that give them color. These are called pigmented cells. This type of tumor happens in the three main parts of the eye: the iris, the ciliary body, and the choroid. Together, these parts of the eye are called the uvea.

Most eye melanomas form in the choroid, This part of the eye is located between the retina and the sclera.

Less common types of primary intraocular tumors are intraocular lymphoma, retinoblastoma, and hemangioma. Rare cancers of the eye are conjunctival melanoma, eyelid carcinoma, and lacrimal gland tumors.

Orbital And Adnexal Cancers

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The orbit consists of the tissues surrounding the eyeball. These include muscles that move the eyeball in different directions and the nerves attached to the eye. Cancers of these tissues are called orbital cancers.

Adnexal structures include the eyelids and tear glands. Cancers that develop in these tissues are called adnexal cancers.

Cancers of the orbit and adnexa develop from tissues such as muscle, nerve, and skin around the eyeball and are like cancers in other parts of the body. For example:

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