eye cancer
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Eye melanomas primarily form in the part of the eye that you can’t see when looking in a mirror. This situation makes eye melanoma hard to detect. Also, eye melanoma usually doesn’t cause early signs or symptoms. Minor eye melanoma treatment may not interfere with your vision. Large eye melanoma treatment typically results in minor or significant vision loss.

About Eye Cancer  

Eye cancer is a kind of cancer that occurs in the eye. Cancer is a condition when cells in a particular body part begin to grow out of control. Melanoma is a type of cancer that grows in the cells that creates melanin, the pigmentation that gives your skin its color. Eyes also have melanin-creating cells, and that can develop melanoma. Eye melanoma is typically called ocular melanoma. Eye melanoma can occur in different parts of the eye. Eye melanoma commonly occurs in the cells of the middle layer of your eye (uvea). The uvea has three parts iris, choroid layer, and ciliary body; each part can be affected by cancer. Eye cancer can also develop on the outermost layer in the front part of the eye (conjunctiva), in the eyeball socket, and on the eyelid.  (Source & Reference)

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Causes of Eye Cancer

It is not yet clear to researchers what exactly causes eye melanoma. Researchers have found that eye melanoma starts when errors develop in the DNA of healthy eye cells. DNA errors cause the cells to grow and multiply uncontrollably, so the mutated cells go on to live an abnormally long lifetime. These abnormal cells accumulate in the eye and result in eye cancer.  (Source & Reference)

Risk Factors

  • People with Light eye color, like blue or green eyes, have a greater risk of eye cancer. Regular eye checkups are essential if you have light-colored eyes.
  • White people who have less melanin in their bodies also have a greater risk of eye melanoma than people with darker skin tones.
  • Certain kinds of inherited skin disorders can also lead to eye cancer. A  skin condition where you get abnormal moles called dysplastic nevus syndrome may also increase your risk of developing melanoma on your skin as well as in your eye.
  • People with abnormal skin pigmentation in their uvea, eyelids, and adjacent tissues, typically known as ocular melanocytotic, also have an increased risk of developing eye cancer.
  • There’s minor evidence that exposure to UV light, such as rays from the sun or tanning, may increase the risk of eye cancer. 
  • Family or personal history of cancer can also lead to future eye cancer.

(Source & Reference)

Symptoms

Eye cancer has several signs and symptoms but is mainly detected during the later stage. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you need to contact your doctor immediately:

  • If you have been experiencing shadows, flashes of light, blurred and wiggly lines in your vision, or even partial or total loss of vision. These are significant signs of eye melanoma.
  • If you have observed bulging of one eye and a dark patch in your eye that’s getting bigger, these are also strong symptoms of eye cancer.
  • Eye irritation or a lump on your eyelid or in your eye that’s increasing in size is an alarming sign of eye melanoma.

(Source & Reference)

Diagnosis

If you are experiencing any or all the symptoms mentioned above, your doctor will first perform a physical exam and medical history check. The thorough diagnosis will include the below tests:

  • Eye exam The ophthalmologist will use special instruments to get a good look inside the eye for any growth or other abnormality. 
  • Imaging tests: Six Imaging tests will be done to see a detailed picture of the eye to detect cancerous cells or other tumors
  • Ultrasound
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT)
  • Fluorescein angiography
  • Chest x-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Biopsy: Collect a small sample of cells from the eye, and that sample will be checked for any trace of cancer in the eye. A liquid biopsy will be done.
  • Blood tests

(Source & Reference)

Prevention

Researchers do not yet know what exactly causes most eye cancers, so it is entirely possible to prevent them through limited exposure to intense sunlight, using protective hats, and wearing UV-protected sunglasses when outside in intense sunlight. Use wrap-around sunglasses which has 99% to 100% UVA and UVB absorption. The connection between sunlight and eye melanomas is not yet proven, but some researchers suggest that using sunglasses might reduce eye cancer risk.  (Source & Reference)

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Facts 

  • Eye cancer is a rare type of cancer in India, making up for about 0.3-0.4% of all cancers. 
  • Eye cancer cases worldwide, 70-80% in India, are seen in adults.
  • The 5-year survival rate for people with eye melanoma is 80%. If the case is diagnosed at an early stage, the 5-year survival rate is 85%