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According to the American Cancer Society’s 2017 estimated statistics, about 3,130 people were diagnosed with eye cancer, and about 330 deaths resulted from it. Eye cancer is more often a secondary cancer (begins elsewhere in the body and spreads to the eye) than a primary cancer. The primary cancers of the eye include Retinoblastoma, Melanoma and Lymphoma

Causes of Eye Cancer

Although it is unclear what causes eye cancer, it has been linked with other conditions and risk factors:

For eye melanoma:

  • Race (much higher in whites)
  • Eye color (higher in light colors)
  • Inherited or Genetic Syndromes
  • Risk increases with Age

Causes of Eye Cancer

For eye lymphoma:

  • Weakened immune system due to AIDS or immunosuppressant medications.

Symptoms of Eye Cancer

The common symptoms include:

Signs and symptoms specifically seen in eye melanoma:

  • A growing dark spot of the iris
  • Change in the size or shape of the pupil
  • Change in the position of the eyeball within its socket

Symptoms of Eye Cancer

Diagnosis of Eye Cancer

The commonly done tests for eye cancer include

But for eye lymphoma, Lumbar puncture may be required.

Diagnosis of Eye Cancer

Staging of Eye Cancer

The diagnostic tests not only help in making the diagnosis but also in determining the stage of cancer .

For eye melanoma:

Stage I: Cancer is not growing into the ciliary body or outside the eyeball. It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or to distant sites.

Stage II: Cancer may or may not be growing into the ciliary body OR is not growing into the ciliary body but is growing outside the eyeball (less than 5 mm) OR is growing both into the ciliary body and outside the eyeball (less than 5 mm). It has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites.

Stage III: Cancer may or may not be growing into the ciliary body but is growing outside the eyeball (less than 5 mm). OR It may or may not be growing into the ciliary body or outside the eyeball. OR The tumor can be any size and is growing outside of the eyeball, and the part that is outside the eyeball is greater than 5mm.

Stage IV: Cancer is any size and may or may not be growing into the ciliary body and outside the eyeball. It has spread to nearby lymph nodes or to other parts of the eye in the form of small deposits, but has not spread to distant sites. OR It is any size and may or may not be growing into the ciliary body and outside the eyeball. It may or may not have spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the eye in the form of small deposits. It has spread to distant parts of the body.

For eye lymphoma:

Eye lymphoma does not have its own staging system, but sometimes doctors use the system for other non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

Treatment of Eye Cancer

Treatments options include the following:

Prevention of Eye Cancer

Since the cause is still unknown, it is not possible to prevent eye cancer. You can, however, limit your exposure to known and suspected risk factors, such as the sun (including wearing UV protected sunglasses) and HIV. There is no recommended screening tests for general population.

Resources: 

  • https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics.html
  • www.cancer.gov
  • http://www.cancer.org/
  • American Joint Committee on Cancer. Malignant melanoma of the uvea. AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, NY: Springer; 2010:547−553
  • Albert DM, Kulkarni AD. Intraocular melanoma. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011:2090-2098.

Hematology Oncology, Eye cancer


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