Ocular Melanoma

Ocular melanoma, the most common type of eye cancer in adults, is a cancer that is difficult to detect and has an unknown origin. Understanding the basics of ocular melanoma will provide the correct steps to properly diagnose and treat this cancer for individuals who may be prone to develop it. Similar to melanoma of the skin, ocular melanoma can either be produced around the eye or inside the layers of the eye. The cancer begins with mutated cell growths inside the cells that are responsible for the pigments of the eye (melanin). These mutated and multiplying cells are called melanocytes, which will eventually form a tumor called a melanoma. The conjunctiva, retina, sclera, iris, ciliary body, and uvea are some of the internal structures of the eye where this cancer can develop.

Analyzing and expanding studies regarding ocular melanoma, scientists and medical professionals are able to gather some statistical evidence for individuals who are at a higher risk of developing this cancer. A list of common characteristics observed in ocular melanoma cases include, but are not limited to, individuals of Caucasian descent, light colored eyes such as blue eyes or green eyes, a history of UV radiation and/or radiation exposure to the eyes, old age, prior skin conditions, and moles in or around the eye; however ocular melanoma may occur in all races and ages with unknown causes.

As skin melanoma is the most common type of cancer in adults, ocular melanoma is the second most common cancer. Ocular melanoma is known to be highly fatal as it spreads to the liver and other parts of the body through by metastasis. Metastasis is when a single cancer cell breaks away and travels through the bloodstream. Although ocular melanoma symptoms may be beyond the individual’s ability to detect, it is still highly recommended to follow up with an ophthalmologist for symptoms, if any. Common symptoms include blurry vision, suspicious or uncommon spots in the eyes, and flashing lights. Appearance wise, the affected eye may display viscous, colored fluids coming out of the eye. It is important not to mistake a mole in the eye with ocular melanoma, however individuals who are prone to moles in or around the eyes are advised for routinely optometry check ups.

Often times, this disease may be asymptomatic and will rapidly spread causing damage to the eye without the individual’s knowledge. At this stage, the significance of treating the melanoma in the eye before it proceeds to spread can be a serious matter. The option to remove the eye with melanoma is called nucleation. The process to ensure a consistent size of the eye socket is resolved with placing temporary implants until the healing process is complete. At this point, an ocularist may treat the patient by constructing an artificial eye, a prosthesis that will closely resemble the individual’s original eye. Another option to treat ocular melanoma may be through plaque radiation therapy, which is a common type of treatment for other cancers as well.

Overall, the importance of raising awareness in ocular melanoma can be a serious concern not only to maintain their vision but to protect their health as well. It is important to pay close attention to symptoms, especially for individuals who are at a higher risk of developing melanoma to have consistent check-ups. Through positive perspectives to resolve this rare cancer, it is assuring to understand the successful types of replacement procedures. The result may be a nearly identical eye, as if the cancer was never there in the first place.