Eye Cancer (Ocular Melanoma)
Ocular melanoma, also known as uveal melanoma, is a rare type of cancer that develops in the melanocytes – cells that produce pigment in the eye. It typically occurs in the uveal tract of the eye, which includes the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. Ocular melanoma is different from skin melanoma, which develops on the skin and is more common.
Ocular melanoma may cause various symptoms, including –
- Blurred vision – Ocular melanoma may cause blurred vision in the affected eye.
- Floaters – Small specks or particles may appear in the field of vision.
- Flashes of light – Ocular melanoma may cause sudden flashes of light or lightning streaks in the vision.
- A change in the shape or size of the pupil – The pupil of the eye may appear irregular or change in size.
- A change in the color of the iris – The iris may change in color, becoming darker or lighter.
- Loss of peripheral vision – Ocular melanoma may cause a gradual loss of peripheral vision.
- Eye pain – In some cases, ocular melanoma may cause pain or discomfort in the affected eye.
These symptoms may also be caused by other eye conditions, so it’s essential to see an eye doctor if you experience any changes in your vision or eye health. Regular eye exams can help detect ocular melanoma early and improve treatment outcomes.
Eye Cancer (Ocular Melanoma)
Causes and Risk Factors
The actual cause of ocular melanoma is yet unknown, but there are several risk factors that have been associated with the development of this type of cancer. Some of the risk factors include –
- Age – Ocular melanoma is more common in adults over the age of 50.
- Light eye color – People with light-colored eyes, particularly blue or green, are at a higher risk of developing ocular melanoma.
- Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation – Prolonged exposure to UV radiation, such as from the sun or tanning beds, may increase the risk of developing ocular melanoma.
- Family history – People with a family history of ocular melanoma are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
- Genetic mutations – Certain genetic mutations have been associated with an increased risk of developing ocular melanoma.
- Certain skin conditions – People with certain skin conditions, such as dysplastic nevi syndrome, are at a higher risk of developing ocular melanoma.
Having one or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that a person will develop ocular melanoma. Conversely, some people with ocular melanoma may not have any of these risk factors. Regular eye exams and early detection are crucial for improving treatment outcomes.
There are several diagnostic tests that may be used to diagnose ocular melanoma. These include –
- Dilated eye exam – During a dilated eye exam, an eye doctor will use special eye drops to widen the pupil, allowing them to examine the inside of the eye for any signs of abnormalities.
- Ultrasound – Ultrasound imaging may be used to create images of the eye and detect any abnormalities, such as a tumor.
- Fluorescein angiography – This test involves injecting a dye into a vein in the arm and taking photographs of the eye as the dye travels through the blood vessels. This can help to identify any abnormalities in the blood vessels of the eye.
- Optical coherence tomography (OCT) – OCT is a non-invasive imaging test that uses light waves to create detailed images of the structures inside the eye. It can help to detect any abnormalities or changes in the retina and other structures of the eye.
- Biopsy – In some cases, a biopsy may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis of ocular melanoma. This involves removing a small sample of tissue from the tumor for examination under a microscope.
If a diagnosis of ocular melanoma is confirmed, additional tests may be needed to determine the size and extent of the cancer and to assess the risk of it spreading to other parts of the body.
The treatment options for ocular melanoma depend on the location and size of the melanoma, general health, and preferences. Generally, the treatments for ocular melanoma fall into various surgical treatments and therapies –
- Surgery – The procedures to perform eye surgery are basically divided into 2 categories i.e. removing a part of eye tissue or an entire part of the eye to prevent further spread of cancer.
- Surgery to remove the melanoma and part of healthy tissue – Surgery to remove the melanoma and surrounding healthy tissue is usually performed for small melanoma.
- Surgery to remove the entire eye (enucleation)– It is performed when the entire eye is removed. An implant is placed at the same position and the muscles controlling eye movement are attached to the implant for the movement. After a few months, the artificial (prosthesis) of the eye will be customized to match your existing eye and placed.
- Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to destroy cancer cells. This treatment is often used to preserve the affected eye, and it may be delivered externally or through a plaque implanted inside the eye.
- Laser therapy – Laser therapy uses a high-energy beam of light to destroy cancer cells. This treatment is typically used for small tumors.
- Photodynamic Therapy – Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment option for some types of cancer, including ocular melanoma. During PDT for ocular melanoma, a photosensitizing agent is injected into a vein in the arm. The agent is absorbed by the cancer cells in the eye and is activated by a laser light that is directed at the tumor. The activated photosensitizing agent produces a toxic oxygen molecule that destroys the cancer cells.
In some cases, particularly for small tumors, an eye doctor may recommend monitoring the tumor’s growth and delaying treatment until it becomes larger or begins to cause symptoms.
They may also be available for patients with ocular melanoma. These clinical trials test new drugs and treatments that are not yet widely available to the public. It’s essential to discuss all treatment options with an eye doctor and oncologist to determine the best course of action for each individual case.
It is best to consult an eye doctor or oncologist to acquire the necessary information for your type of cancer based on stage, location, and other types of factors.