Melanoma of the eyeMalignant melanoma - choroid; Malignant melanoma - eye; Eye tumor; Ocular melanoma
Melanoma of the eye is cancer that occurs in various parts of the eye.
Melanoma is a very aggressive type of cancer that can spread rapidly. It usually is a type of skin cancer.
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease. Melanoma can also involve the eye, particula...
Melanoma of the eye can affect several parts of the eye, including the:
- Ciliary body
The choroid layer is the most likely site of melanoma in the eye. This is the layer of blood vessels and connective tissue between the white of the eye and retina (back of the eye).
The cancer may only be in the eye. Or, it may spread (metastasize) to another location in the body, most commonly the liver. Melanoma can also begin on the skin or other organs in the body and spread to the eye.
Melanoma is the most common type of eye tumor in adults. Even so, melanoma that starts in the eye is rare.
Too much exposure to sunlight is an important risk factor for melanoma. People who have fair-skin and blue eyes are most affected.
Symptoms of melanoma of the eye may include any of the following:
- Bulging eyes
- Change in iris color
- Poor vision in one eye
- Red, painful eye
- Small defect on the iris or conjunctiva
The iris is the colored part of the eye. It is located between the cornea and lens. The round, central opening of the iris is called the pupil. Ve...
In some cases, there may be no symptoms.
Exams and Tests
An eye examination with an ophthalmoscope may reveal a single round or oval lump (tumor) in the eye.
Ophthalmoscopy is an examination of the back part of the eye (fundus), which includes the retina, optic disc, choroid, and blood vessels.
Tests that may be ordered include:
- Brain CT or MRI scan to look for spread (metastasis) to the brain
A head computed tomography (CT) scan uses many x-rays to create pictures of the head, including the skull, brain, eye sockets, and sinuses.
- Eye ultrasound
- Skin biopsy if there is an affected area on the skin
Small melanomas may be treated with:
- Radiation therapy (such as Gamma Knife, CyberKnife, brachytherapy)
Radiation therapy uses high-powered x-rays, particles, or radioactive seeds to kill cancer cells.
Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a form of radiation therapy that focuses high-power energy on a small area of the body. Despite its name, radiosur...
Surgery to remove the eye (enucleation) may be needed.
Other treatments that may be used include:
- Chemotherapy, if the cancer has spread beyond the eye
- Immunotherapy, which uses medicines to help your immune system fight the melanoma
You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.
Cancer support group
The following organizations are good resources for information on cancer:American Cancer Society -- www. cancer. orgAmerican Childhood Cancer Organiz...
The outcome for melanoma of the eye depends on the size of the cancer when it is diagnosed. Most people survive at least 5 years from the time of diagnosis if the cancer has not spread outside the eye.
If the cancer has spread outside the eye, the chance of long-term survival is much lower.
Problems that may develop due to melanoma of the eye include:
- Distortion or loss of vision
- Retinal detachment
- Spread of the tumor to other areas of the body
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call for an appointment with your provider if you have symptoms of melanoma of the eye.
The most important way to prevent melanoma of the eye is to protect the eyes from sunlight, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun's rays are most intense. Wear sunglasses that have ultraviolet protection.
A yearly eye exam is recommended.
Augsburger JJ, Damato BE, Bornfeld N, Correa ZM. Uveal melanoma. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 8.2.
National Cancer Institute website. Intraocular (uveal) melanoma treatment (PDQ) - health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/eye/hp/intraocular-melanoma-treatment-pdq. Updated July 9, 2015. Accessed September 29, 2017.
Retina - illustration
The retina is the internal layer of the eye that receives and transmits focused images. The retina is normally red due to its rich blood supply.
Review Date: 8/14/2017
Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.