Facts About Eye Cancer Everyone Should Know
The eye is comprised of three major structures, and cancer can form in each of them. The globe or eyeball is the main portion of the eye, and it’s also the most delicate. The orbit is all of the tissues around the eyeball and the connecting nerves, and the adnexal structures include the tear glands and eyelids.
Types of Eye Cancer
Cancer of the eye that impacts the eyeball is known as intraocular cancer, though there are a few variations. Primary intraocular eye cancer actually starts in the eye, while secondary intraocular cancers start elsewhere in the body and then spread to the eye. They may either be a lymphoma, which originates in the immune system, or melanomas that come from the cells in the body that make pigment. These cancers may also start in different parts of the eyeball, resulting in ocular cancer or retinal cancer.
Eye cancer symptoms in the orbital or adnexal structures are very different from intraocular cancer in their diagnosis and treatment and are usually the same as cancers found elsewhere on the body, such as skin or muscle cancers.
One type of eye cancer known as retinoblastoma is a heritable disease. It presents as malignant cells in the retina and is most prevalent in children.
What is the Most Common Type of Eye Cancer?
The most common type of cancer in the eye is secondary intraocular cancer, which has started somewhere else in the body and eventually moved to the eye. Primary intraocular cancer is not as common, with less than 3,000 new diagnoses annually. These are generally melanomas, as lymphocytic cancer of the eye is extremely rare.
Of all of the intraocular cancers, choroidal melanoma is the most common. The choroid sits behind the eyeball, and its purpose is to keep the retina and front of the eye nourished with blood. Five-year survival rates for this type of cancer are anywhere between 50 and 85 percent, depending on the extent of the disease.
Will the Cancer Spread?
It’s possible that the cancer in the eye will spread to other parts of the body, which makes it extremely important to get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as the first signs of eye cancer appear. When it’s caught early, doctors are usually able to remove all of the cancer to prevent this from occurring.
How is Eye Cancer Treated?
Treatment for eye cancer depends on whether it presents as a localized tumor or something more advanced and widespread. For localized tumors, doctors may opt for simple surgery or laser therapy, and they may use freezing techniques or heat therapy. Widespread cancers may require more advanced surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Many will require all of these over a period of time.
What Are the Signs of Eye Cancer
Ocular cancer of the orbital or adnexal structures may begin as an ulcer or lump on the outside of the eyelid, and they
usually don’t heal over time. The appearance of the eyelid may change, in particular, the skin of the eyelid, and it may thicken or swell. Some people experience frequent or chronic infections of the eyelid once they have the cancer.
Intraocular cancer presents with very different symptoms, which are often more serious or severe. For instance, a person may experience bulging in one eye as a result of a tumor, or there may be a dark patch in or around the eye that continues to grow.
Many patients experience blurred vision or even total or partial loss of vision in the affected eye. Early symptoms include seeing squiggly lines, moving shadows or flashes of light. These are usually experienced in the early stages before there are any perceptible symptoms, and these are an indicator that it’s time to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Who is at Risk for Eye Cancer?
Age and gender tend to affect whether a person develops eye cancer. Men have a greater risk of developing eye cancer than women do, but either gender may develop it. Those who are over the age of 50, especially Caucasians, are at a greater risk of developing cancer of the eye. Eye color also plays a role. People who have blue, green or gray eyes are more likely to develop it than people with brown eyes.
Like skin cancer, people with family members who have moles are at risk for cancers of the orbital or adnexal structures. People who are in the sun a lot or use tanning beds are more at risk for cancer on the eyelids.