Eye cancer can develop in any of the eye’s structures. Primary intraocular cancers begin in the eye, while secondary intraocular cancers develop as a result of cancer spreading from another part of the body.
Continue reading to discover more about the causes, symptoms, treatment, and outlook of eye cancer.
What is eye cancer?
Eye cancer can develop in any of the three primary parts of the eye.
The eyeball is one of the components, and it is filled with vitreous humor, a jelly-like fluid. Three layers make up an eyeball:
- retina, which sends information from the eye to the brain
- uvea, which provides nourishment for the eye
- sclera, which is the outer wall
The ciliary body, which regulates the shape of the lens and focuses the eye, and the choroid, which includes pigmented cells and connective tissue, are both found in the uvea, which is the central aperture in the iris.
The orbit is another element of the eye. The tissues and bones that surround the eyeball are referred to as the orbital.
The adnexal structures, which comprise the eyelids and tear glands, make up the third section.
Scientists are looking at how changes in the DNA inside genes might lead to eye cancer. Oncogenes, which help cancer cells grow and divide, may be turned on by DNA alterations, whereas tumor suppressor genes, which destroy cancer cells or restrict their growth, can be turned off by DNA changes. Healthy cells can grow out of control and form a tumor as a result of these alterations.
Different types of eye cancer
Eye cancer is an uncommon disease. According to the American Cancer Society, there will be 3,320 new instances of eye cancer diagnosed in 2021, with 400 fatalities.
Adults and children are affected differently by the most frequent kinds of primary intraocular cancers.
Melanoma is the most prevalent form in adults. The pigmented cells that give the eye its color are where intraocular melanoma begins. Uveal melanoma accounts for 85 percent of all primary intraocular cancers, with the choroid accounting for 85–90 percent of tumors. Adults are more likely to develop conjunctival melanoma, which affects the thin, transparent covering that covers the sclera.
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the second most prevalent kind in adults (primary intraocular lymphoma). This normally only happens to people who have immune system conditions.
Other, less prevalent primary eye cancers in adults include orbital and adnexal.
Retinoblastoma is the most frequent kind of primary eye cancer in children. Medulloepithelioma is the second most prevalent kind, however it is quite rare.
The incidence of secondary intraocular cancers is higher than that of initial intraocular cancers. Ocular melanomas, for example, begin in the skin in around 90% of cases. Breasts and lungs are two more typical origins of origin. Skin cancers on the eyelid, on the other hand, might still be considered primary cancers.
Symptoms of eye cancer
Many people with eye cancer do not have any symptoms until the tumor has progressed. The following are signs and symptoms that should be reported to a healthcare professional:
- a growing dark spot on the iris
- change in size or shape of the pupil
- change in position of the eyeball
- blurry vision or sudden loss of vision
- bulging of the eye
- floaters, which are specks that move around in the field of vision, or flashes of light
- visual field loss
- change in the way the eye moves
Unless the tumor is huge, eye cancer rarely causes pain. These signs and symptoms can be caused by a variety of conditions and aren’t always indicative of cancer.
The following tests can be used to identify eye cancer by a healthcare professional:
- fluorescein angiography
The following are some of the risk factors for eye cancer:
- Certain inherited conditions: Conditions such as dysplastic nevus syndrome, oculodermal melanocytosis, and BAP1 cancer syndrome may increase a person’s risk.
- Eye area moles or freckles: People with different types of moles or freckles on the skin or in the eye may be more likely to develop eye cancer.
- Race: The risk of eye melanoma is higher in white people than in People of Color.
- Older age: Older people are more likely to develop eye cancer.
- Family history: Having immediate family with a history of eye cancer can also increase a person’s risk.
- Eye color: The risk of uveal melanoma is higher in people with light colored eyes, such as blue or green.
More study is needed to determine if some variables, such as UV exposure, specific vocations, or skin melanoma, cause eye cancer.
Suggestions for prevention
The actual etiology of eye cancer is unknown to experts. Although the risk factors for eye cancer are well understood, those who are at risk are unable to modify their people.
The American Cancer Society advocates wearing UV-protected sunglasses when outside, despite the fact that there is no documented association between eye cancer and sunshine. Wrap-around sunglasses with UVA and UVB absorption of 99–100% are the best option.
A doctor must first establish the size of the tumor and if it has migrated to other parts of the eye, lymph nodes, or other parts of the body before treatment can begin. This is referred to as staging.
The doctor may also use a microscope to evaluate the type of cancer cells and how likely they are to react to therapy.
The doctor may advise cautious waiting if the tumor is tiny and slow-growing. If the tumor grows to a specific size or causes symptoms, treatment will begin.
A treatment strategy could include a combination of the following:
- Laser therapy: Infrared light is used by doctors to heat and eliminate tumors. Because it can cause hemorrhage, retinal detachment, obstruction of eye blood vessels, and recurrence of eye cancer, doctors mainly employ this procedure for minor eye cancers.
- Chemotherapy: Unless the cancer has progressed to other parts of the body, this is typically not the first-line treatment for eye cancer.
- Radiation: Radiation therapy comes in a variety of forms. Doctors use a machine to deliver high-energy X-ray beams near to the cancer, or they may inject a disk containing radioactive seeds directly into the eye (brachytherapy or plaque therapy). Because radiation can maintain eyesight and attractiveness, it is more commonly used than surgery.
- Surgery: The type and amount of surgery will be determined by the tumor’s location and size. The quantity of tissue removed varies, ranging from a tiny piece of the eyeball to the entire eyeball (enucleation). Some or complete vision in the eye may be lost as a result of surgery.
Some eye cancers can be cured with therapy, according to doctors. In some cases, eye cancer is incurable, although therapy can help prevent it from spreading and worsening.
The healthcare team will evaluate a person’s symptoms and request tests to look for cancer recurrence or spread during follow-up appointments. They’ll help you cope with the negative effects of your therapy and keep your eyesight as clear as possible.
There are currently no established methods for preventing eye cancer from reoccurring or developing. People’s general health may be improved by engaging in specific actions, such as:
- maintaining a healthy weight
- not smoking
- eating well
Localized eye melanoma has a 5-year survival rate of 84 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. The rate of metastasis, or the spread of cancer to other parts of the body, is 18%. For a positive outcome, early detection is critical.
There are a variety of cancer support groups to choose from. One-on-one counseling may be beneficial to certain people. Cancer patients have access to a variety of resources.
Eye cancer can begin in any of the eye’s structures. People who are aware of the signs and symptoms of eye cancer are more likely to receive an early diagnosis and treatment.
There are several therapy options available. If at all possible, eyesight will be preserved, and the cancer will not spread to other parts of the body.
Eye cancer has a positive outlook, especially if detected early.