An eye cancer is one of the most common types of head and neck cancer that begins in the eye cells. It occurs when healthy cells begin to grow uncontrollably and forms a tumor that can be benign or malignant.
Types of eye cancer
- Intraocular cancers
- Orbital and adnexal cancers
Causes and symptoms
There are several risk factors of eye cancer that includes race and ethnicity, eye color, age and gender and certain genetic conditions. Excessive sun exposure or occupations such as welding, laundry and dealing with chemicals may also result in eye cancer. People with other diseases such as cancer, AIDS or weakened immune system can also become a prey of this disease.
Symptoms of eye cancer consist of bulging of an eye, partial or complete sight loss, blurred vision, change in appearance of the eye, pain in and around the eye, an occurrence of a lump over the eye, eye irritation, dark spot, chronic inflammation, red eye and seeing flashes and spots.
Other than examining the symptoms, the doctor (an ophthalmologist) can perform some tests to determine whether you are diagnosed with eye cancer. These include an eye examination, ultrasound scan, angiogram, a biopsy, cytogenetic testing, lumbar puncture and imaging tests.
The treatment of an eye cancer totally depends upon the type of cancer, stage and location of the tumor and results derived from the diagnostic tests. Below are given brief descriptions of treatment options:
- Surgery: Surgical procedure is used to treat intraocular melanomas where the patient is put to sleep by giving general anesthesia. The process involves:
- Iridectomy, where part of the iris is removed.
- Iridotrabeculectomy, where the outer part of the eyeball along with part of the iris is removed.
- Iridocyclectomy, where part of the iris and ciliary body is eliminated.
- Transscleral resection, where melanoma of the choroid is removed.
- Enucleation, which refers to the removal of entire eyeball.
- Orbital exenteration, where the whole eyeball and surrounding structures such as nerves, muscles, tissues and part of eyelid is removed.
- Radiotherapy: Radiation therapy includes use of high-energy radio waves to kill the cancer cells and is one of the most common treatments for eye melanoma. It can be used together with surgery for improved vision.
- Laser therapy: Laser therapy involves the use of highly focused beams of light to destroy the cancer cells, but not an appropriate treatment for eye lymphoma.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy refers to use of anti-cancer drugs, injected into the parts of the body to treat cancer.
- Targeted therapy: It also uses drugs that target the affected area and gene change that are responsible for cancer.
Possible risks and side effects of eye cancer treatment may occur which may be temporary or permanent. These are:
- Progressive pain
- Blood clots
- Loss of vision
- Retinal detachment
- Memory issues
- Hair loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Fatigue and weakness
Post operative care
Post treatment life can be both exciting and stressful for the patient who has undergone eye cancer treatment. The pain and issues with vision may be gone, but there is always a possibility of recurrence. Make sure to notice any signs and symptoms of the cancer coming back or development of any new cancer.
After the treatment, your doctor will need to take a close look at you. Hence, follow up appointments need to be visited. Tell the doctor about possible symptoms, treatment complications and any concern that you have.
Side effects may stay for days, months or even years, depending on how well you respond to the treatment. Don’t feel bothered by them and take necessary medications prescribed by the doctor to cope with them.
Physical exams, blood tests and imaging tests will need to be done at every health check ups to make sure cancer isn’t coming back. If it does come back, chemotherapy can easily treat it at an early stage.