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Everything You Need to Know About Eye Cancer

The article will delve into treatment options for eye cancer and the overall outlook for those affected.

  • 07 Sep 2023
  • 5 min read

Our eyes are one of the most important organs in the human body. They allow us to see the world around us and experience its beauty. However, the importance of our eyes often goes unnoticed until we experience an issue. One such issue is eye cancer, which is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition. Eye cancer can affect any part of the eye, and early detection is critical for successful treatment. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of eye cancer. We will talk about what eye cancer is, its types, and what causes eye cancer. We will also look at what are the symptoms of eye cancer and some tips that can help reduce the risk of acquiring it. Furthermore, we will delve into treatment options for eye cancer and the overall outlook for those affected.


What is Eye Cancer?

So, what is eye cancer?. Eye cancer, or ocular cancer, refers to the abnormal growth of cells within the eye. It can occur in any of the eye’s three major parts, i.e. the eyeball, the orbit, and the adnexal structures. Let’s understand these parts a bit better.

  • The eyeball is filled with a jelly-type fluid called the vitreous humor. It has three layers: the sclera, the uvea, and the retina. The outer wall is termed the sclera. Uvea is responsible for nourishment to the eye. The retina transmits information from the eye to the brain.
  • The orbit is the bone and tissue framework around the eye.
  • The adnexal structures comprise the eyelids and tear glands.

Eye cancer can occur in any of these parts. Scientists are actively investigating genetic changes within DNA that trigger eye cancer.


Types of Eye Cancer

Eye cancer, though rare, manifests in various forms. They also have a distinctive prevalence across different age groups.

For adults, the most common type is melanoma. Intraocular melanoma starts in the cells that give the eye its color. Uveal melanoma is the most frequent. It accounts for 85% of cases of primary intraocular cancers. Most of these occur in the choroid (middle layer of tissue in the eye wall). Conjunctival melanoma affects the clear layer over the sclera, and is less common among adults.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the next most common eye cancer in adults. It's more likely in people with immune system-related issues.

There are also rare primary eye cancers like orbital and adnexal cancers in adults.

Among children, the main eye cancer is retinoblastoma. A very uncommon type is medulloepithelioma.


Symptoms of Eye Cancer

Let us now understand what the symptoms of eye cancer are. Understanding what the first signs of eye cancer are is crucial for timely detection and prompt treatment. In many cases of eye cancer, individuals may not experience noticeable symptoms until the disease has advanced. However, certain indicators warrant immediate attention from a healthcare professional:

  • Blurry or sudden loss of vision
  • Tiny floating specks (floaters) or flashes of light
  • Partial loss of your visual field
  • A growing dark spot on your eye's colored part (iris)
  • Changes in pupil size or shape
  • Shifts in eyeball position
  • Bulging eye appearance
  • Altered eye movement

Pain is uncommon in eye cancer unless the tumor is large. Remember, these signs could also be linked to other issues, not just cancer. Healthcare providers use tests like ophthalmoscopy, ultrasound, and fluorescein angiography to diagnose eye cancer.


Also read:

Risk Factors Associated with Eye Cancer

Let us now analyse what causes eye cancer. While there’s no certain cause, various factors can contribute to an increased risk of eye cancer. These are listed below:

  • Eye colour: People with light-colored eyes, such as blue or green, have a higher likelihood of uveal melanoma.
  • Age: Older individuals are more prone to developing eye cancer
  • Certain inherited conditions: Conditions like dysplastic nevus syndrome, oculodermal melanocytosis, and BAP1 cancer syndrome can significantly elevate the risk of eye cancer.
  • Presence of moles or freckles around the eye area: Moles present either on the skin or within the eye, can increase the risk of this disease.
  • Family history of eye cancer: Individuals with immediate family members who have a history of eye cancer are at a heightened risk.


Tips to Prevent Eye Cancer

Eye cancer cannot always be prevented, however there are certain precautions you can take to reduce of acquiring this disease:

  • Less Sun Exposure: Stay out of strong sunlight when possible.
  • Cover Up: Wear protective clothes, like hats, in the sun to protect your skin and eyes.
  • Use Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen to keep your skin safe.
  • Wear UV-absorbing Sunglasses: Choose sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays, safeguarding your eyes and the skin around them.

While the connection between sunlight and eye melanomas isn't entirely proven, some doctors think wearing sunglasses could help lower the risk.


How is Eye Cancer Treated?

Before starting treatment, the doctor will check how big the tumour is and if it has spread to other parts of the eye or body. This is called staging.

They might also look at the cancer cells under a microscope to understand what type they are and how they might respond to treatment.

If the tumour is small or slow-growing, the doctor might suggest waiting and monitoring tumour growth. Treatment would start if the tumour gets bigger or causes problems.

The treatment plan might include:

  • Surgery: The size of the tumour and its location will determine the type of surgery. Depending on where the tumour is and how big it is, the doctor might remove a small part of the eye or even the whole eyeball. But this could lead to some loss of vision.
  • Radiation: The doctor might aim high-energy radiation emitted from a machine close to the cancer. This is often chosen over surgery because it can keep your vision and the look of your eye.
  • Laser Therapy: This uses special light to heat and kill the tumour. It's good for small eye cancers, but it might cause some problems like bleeding or vision issues.

Every person's eye cancer treatment is different. The goal is to treat the cancer well while trying to keep your vision and eye health as good as possible.


Overall Outlook Towards Eye Cancer

Localized eye melanoma has a 5-year survival rate of 84%, and 18% if it spreads to other body parts.

Some cases of eye cancer can be cured with treatment. In other cases, treatment can slow down its spread and growth.

In follow-up visits, healthcare teams watch for symptoms and use tests to check if cancer comes back or spreads. They also help manage treatment effects and try to keep your vision clear.

Though no surefire ways exist to prevent eye cancer from returning or worsening, healthy choices like not smoking, eating well, staying a healthy weight, and exercising can improve overall health.

People can find support from cancer groups or personal counselling. Lots of resources are available to help those dealing with cancer navigate their journey.



In conclusion, eye cancer is an unfortunate and life-threatening condition that can arise in anyone. It is important to stay informed of the signs and symptoms of eye cancer, and to seek medical advice immediately if any doubts arise. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including protecting your eyes with UV sunglasses when outdoors, can help reduce the risk of acquiring eye cancer.

Eye cancer can impose significant financial burdens on patients and their families. Hence, it is important to consider health insurance for cancer related treatments. If in an unfortunate scenario of one being diagnosed with eye cancer health insurance for cancer can prove to be a prudent step to ensure comprehensive care.

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