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Eye Cancer (Eye Melanoma): Symptoms, Causes, Factors and Treatment

  • Posted on- Aug 24, 2015
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Melanoma is a cancer form which grows in the cells that make melanin- the pigment that gives your skin its color. Though melanoma typically affects the skin, it can also spread to the eye. Eye melanoma is also known as ocular melanoma. Melanoma is the most common type of eye tumor in adults however, melanoma of the eye alone is rare.

Eye melanoma is difficult to identify because it forms in the part of the eye you can't see when looking in a mirror. Moreover, this type of cancer typically doesn't cause early signs or symptoms.

Symptoms associated with Malignant Melanoma of the Eye

Eye melanoma may not show signs and symptoms at the beginning. But when they appear, they may include:

Factors behind Eye melanoma

It’s unclear what causes eye melanoma, but eye specialists know that error in the mutations (DNA) of healthy eye cells lead to the formation of a tumor. This error instructs cells to grow and multiply out of control. The mutated cells accumulate in the eye and form an eye melanoma.

Cancerous melanoma of the eye is a rare condition that can occur when the eye has been exposed to too much ultraviolet radiation. The choroid layer of the eye is most commonly affected by malignant melanoma. However, it can affect other areas of the eyes also including:
  • Ciliary body, which helps lubricate eyes and contains muscles that help eyes focus
  • Conjunctiva, which is a transparent tissue that covers the sclera, or “whites” of the eye
  • Eyelid
  • Iris, which is the colored part of the eye that helps control how much light is let in
  • Orbit, which is the cavity in the skull that contains the eye

Tests and diagnosis of Eye melanoma

Your eye doctor may suggest different test to diagnose eye melanoma:
  • Eye examination: Your eye doctor will examine the outside of your eye looking for enlarged blood vessels that can specify a tumor inside your eye. With the help of instruments, he/she will look inside your eye.
  • Eye ultrasound: An eye ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves from a transducer to produce images of your eye.
  • Angiogram: It is a procedure where a colored dye is injected into a vein in your arm. The dye travels to the blood vessels in your eye. A camera with special filters to detect the dye takes pictures every few seconds.
  • Removing a sample of suspicious tissue for testing: In some cases, your eye doctor may propose a procedure to remove a sample of tissue (biopsy) from your eye.

Treatment for Eye melanoma

Treatment for malignant melanoma of the eye will depend on the specific type of tumor that you have. If the tumor is small and is not growing rapidly, your eye specialist may not recommend treatment. However, he/she will keep an eye on the growth of the tumor.

If your tumor is large or has the potential to spread, your doctor may recommend more belligerent treatment. There are several options:
  • Surgery to remove the eye
  • Radiation therapy to kill the cancer cells inside the eye
  • Laser therapy
  • Extreme cold may be used to destroy melanoma cells in some small eye melanomas

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