People with eye cancer now have more treatment choices and more hope for survival than ever before. Doctors keep finding new treatments for eye cancer and ways to help people with eye cancer have better lives.

What is Cancer of the Eye?

Eye cancer is a very rare kind of cancer that starts somewhere in or on the eye (on the surface, on the iris, or within the eye beneath the retina) or in the skin of cells around the eye (the eyelid). Because it is so rare, it is best for a person diagnosed with eye cancer to seek treatment from someone who specializes in this field. A person can ask their doctor to refer them to an eye cancer specialist.

Types of Eye Cancer

There are different kinds of eye cancers. Below are some of the places near or on the eye where cancers can grow and the types that may be present on each one of these places:

  • Eyelid tumors. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of eyelid cancer. It can be removed with surgery. Other types of eyelid tumors include squamous cell carcinoma, sebaceous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.
  • Tumors that grow on the surface of the eye (conjunctival tumors). Conjunctival tumors include squamous carcinomas, malignant melanomas, and lymphomas.
  • Tumors that grow in the colored part of the eye or iris tumors. These tumors include melanomas.
  • Choroid tumors. These are tumors that grow in the layer of blood vessels that support the retina. They include melanoma, choroidal nevus, and choroidal osteoma.
  • Retinoblastoma. This is a cancer of the eye that affects children. It is extremely rare in adults.

Cancers of the Eyelid

Cancer of the eyelid is actually a type of skin cancer, not an eye cancer. The treatment most commonly used for cancer of the eyelid is surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove all of the cancer. The type of surgery used depends on the size of the tumor. If the tumor requires removal of most of the eyelid, the eyelid will be remade (reconstructed) using plastic surgery. In some cases, radiation may be needed after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may have been left behind. Radiation will usually affect eyesight.

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