What is ocular melanoma?
Ocular melanoma is a cancer that develops in the melanin-producing cells of the eyes. The other type of melanoma is cutaneous, which affects the cells that give your skin pigment.
This cancer can happen in the iris, the choroid layer, or the ciliary body. In very rare cases, ocular melanoma occurs in the outermost layer of the eye or the socket that surrounds the eyeball.
What are the symptoms of ocular melanoma?
It is possible that this cancer does not cause any symptoms, which makes it difficult to diagnose. If symptoms do occur, they may be a sensation of flashes or specks of dust in the eye, growing dark spots on the iris, a change in shape of the pupil, poor and blurry vision, and a loss of vision.
Complications may also arise from this cancer. Glaucoma, vision loss, and eye melanomas that spread beyond the eye are all possible complications.
What causes ocular melanoma?
It is not known what causes this cancer. Medical professionals are aware that errors in the DNA of healthy eye cells allow cells to continue to multiply out of control, and when they accumulate they cause ocular melanoma. They do not know why this DNA error happens.
There are known risk factors. These include having a light eye color, being white, age, as the chance of developing this cancer increases with age, certain inherited skin disorders, exposure to UV light, and certain genetic mutations.
How is ocular melanoma diagnosed?
Ocular melanoma may be difficult to diagnose, as it occurs on the part of the eye that cannot be seen in the mirror, and it is often asymptomatic.
A doctor may recommend a number of different tests, such as eye exams, eye ultrasounds, imaging of the blood vessels in and around the tumor, optical coherence tomography, and biopsies.
After ocular melanoma is confirmed, tests must be performed to evaluate if the cancer has spread or not. Doctors may conduct blood tests, chest x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, abdominal ultrasounds, and PET scans.
What are the treatments for ocular melanoma?
Treatment for ocular melanoma differs based on the location and size of the tumor, overall health, and treatment preferences. If a tumor is small enough, not causing symptoms, and not showing growth, an option is to monitor it rather than treating it. Other treatment options are radiation, laser therapy, photodynamic therapy, cold treatments, and surgery. Surgery options are to remove the melanoma and the small surrounding area of healthy tissue or surgery to remove the entire eye. The latter is only used in severe cases.