Tumors of the Eye

What types of tumors affect the eye?

Malignant tumors can metastasize to the eye, just as they can metastasize to other parts of the body. The most common cancers that affect the internal structures of the eye originate in the breast, lung, prostate, and bone marrow (leukemia). Typically, these cancers cause tumors within the eye after the cancer has been diagnosed elsewhere. Metastatic tumors within the eye are usually treated with systemic chemotherapy, which also fights the cancer in other parts of the body. Occasionally, radiation therapy has been used to treat the eye more directly. Tumors can also originate within the eye itself. The most common primary malignant tumor that occurs in the eye is a choroidal malignant melanoma. This typically occurs silently in patients at an average of 55 year old and older. It occurs much more frequently in Caucasians. Sunlight does not appear to play a role in the development of these cancers as it does in skin melanoma.

What is a choroidal melanoma and how is it diagnosed?

Nowadays, most people are familiar with melanoma as a very dangerous type of skin cancer involving the melanocytes that give the skin its pigmented color. Skin melanomas are associated with unprotected exposure to the sun, especially in youth. Unlike skin melanomas, choroidal melanomas have not been linked to sun exposure, but they are more common in persons with lighter skin pigment. Similar to skin melanomas, intraocular melanomas are believed to arise from small benign pigmented areas called nevi. An intraocular nevus is best examined by dilating the pupil of the eye and looking with special lenses. Photographs, including specialized digital imaging, may also be taken to compare to future exams for any changes. If a pigmented area within the eye becomes larger and thicker, an ultrasound is usually performed to measure the area and check for characteristics suspicious for a malignant melanoma.

How are choroidal melanomas treated?

The treatment chosen will vary depending on the type, size and location of the tumor. The treatment options may include:

  • Observation (for very small tumors)
  • Laser
  • Transpupillary Thermotherapy
  • Radioactive Plaque
  • External beam radiation
  • Cryotherapy
  • Tumor removal
  • Removal of the eye (enucleation)
  • Immunotherapy or chemotherapy

© 2017 Retina Consultants of Nevada

Medical Practice Website Design by Medical Management Associates