Cancer can originate in any part of the body. The eyes are no exception. Cancers that originate in the eye are less common vis-a-vis many others. It is classified based on the type of cell it begins in. The eye cancer seen most often is the intraocular melanoma.
Intraocular melanoma is a rare cancer that forms inside the eye. It causes melanocytes (cells that produce pigment, or color) to grow out of control. The disease can lead to vision changes or loss. This type of eye cancer usually starts in the choroid.
The three major parts of the eye are the eyeball and the three main layers (retina, uvea and sclera), the orbit (tissues surrounding the eyeball) and adnexal (connected parts like thes eyelids and tear glands). Different types of eye cancer can occur in any of these parts.
The two types of intraocular cancers include primary (cancer that originates in the eye) and secondary (when the cancer has spread to the eye, but started somewhere else).
The chief types of primary intraocular cancers include melanoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In case of children, the most common intraocular cancers are Retinoblastoma (cancer in cells of the retina) and haemangioma (a benign tumour of the choroid and retina that develops in the blood vessels).
Among the prominent forms of intraocular cancers, Intraocular melanomas are the most common form of eye cancer among adults. It is a condition of the melanocytes of the eye due to its exposure to a harmful skin cancer known as melanoma. It can spread to the other parts of the body and affect other tissues in and around the eye, including the iris, ciliary body, conjunctiva, and eyelids.
Some of the causes of Intraocular Melanoma are:
– Exposure to UV rays and tanning beds
– Skin problems
– Age Factor
Conjunctival melanoma is a type of tumour that develops in the conjunctiva and if left untreated, may spread to the lymph nodes. There are chances of recurrence of this cancer and may appear on the surface of the eye in the form of a dark spot.
Symptoms of Intraocular Cancer
Unlike most other cancers, the eye cancer may not show any obvious symptoms and are most likely discovered during a routine eye check-up.
Some of the signs and symptoms of intraocular cancer are:
– The bulging of an eye
– Partial or complete loss of vision
– Lump on the surface of the eye and eyelids
– Blurry vision
– Change in shape of the pupil
– Changes in the appearance of the eye
– Seeing spots or flashes
– A dark spot in the iris
– Chronic inflammation of the conjunctiva.
When the cancer has spread to the outside or inside of the eye, the patient may feel some pain. While these symptoms may be similar to other eye conditions, it is imperative to identify them and report them to the doctor. If the condition is diagnosed as eye cancer, then an early detection will make it easier to treat it and ensure a successful treatment.
Treating the Intraocular Cancers
The determinants of the treatment plan include blood tests, the size and location of the tumour and the stage of the cancer, the overall health of the person, and the ability to see with the normal eye. The aim of the treatment plan is to save the eye and check the cancer from spreading to other parts.
Since there are chances of eye damage during the course of the treatment, doctors usually recommend to wait and watch if the tumour is growing. The treatments include surgical removal of the tumour and some small tissues surrounding the tumour, radiation, photocoagulation, or transpupillary thermotherapy (using heat to destroy cancer cells).
Things to remember
Intraocular melanoma is a rare form of cancer that affects the eye and starts in the melanocytes of your eyes. Watch out for soreness in the eye, blurry vision, or any floaters in the vision, and protect the eyes from UV rays. Wear sunglasses while stepping out in the sun. The symptoms may look like other problems, but it is always better to consult an expert before it is too late.
Dr. Prakash Bhagat, Surgical Oncologist, HCG – Abdur Razzaque Ansari Cancer Hospital – Ranchi.