Melanoma of the eye
Melanoma of the eye is cancer that occurs in various parts of the eye.
Malignant melanoma - choroid; Malignant melanoma - eye; Eye tumor; Ocular melanoma
Melanoma is a very aggressive type of cancer that can spread rapidly.
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.
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. Persons who have fair-skin and blue eyes are most affected.
- Bulging eyes
- Change in iris color
- Poor vision in one eye
- Red, painful eye
- Small defect on the iris or conjunctiva
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.
Tests that may be ordered include:
- Cranial CT scan to look for spread (metastasis) to the brain
- Eye ultrasound
- MRI of the head to look for spread (metastasis) to the brain
- Skin biopsy if there is an affected area on the skin
Small melanomas may be treated with:
- Radiation therapy (brachytherapy)
Surgery to remove the eye (enucleation) may be needed.
Other treatments that may be used are chemotherapyy or biological therapy (interferon).
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.
The outcome for melanoma of the eye depends on the size of the cancer when it is diagnosed. Most patients 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 survival is much lower.
- 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 health care provider if you have symptoms of melanoma of the eye.
The most important way to prevent eye melanoma 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.
Lange JR, Fecher LA, Sharfman WH, et al. Melanoma. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 73.
National Cancer Institute: PDQ Intraocular (Uveal) Melanoma Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Date last modified 11/09/2012. Accessed September 20, 2013.
Last reviewed 9/20/2013 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, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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