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Cancers of the Eye

Cancers of the eye, or intraocular cancers, include melanoma and lymphoma and there are also a few rare types that are found in children. Following is a very brief description of each cancer and the most common treatments.

Melanoma of the Eye

Melanoma of the eye is caused by cells called melanocytes that become cancerous. These are the cells that cause pigmentation or coloring and are found throughout your body including in your eyes, skin, lips and the lining of your organs such as your eyes. Generally, melanomas begin in the skin but not always. Sometimes they first form in other parts of the body.

When melanoma grows in your eye, it will start in either the front covering of your eye (your conjunctiva), your eyeball, or your eyelid. Usually though, it’s in your eyeball. Cancer of the eyelid or conjunctiva is rare. For that matter, so is melanoma of the eyeball, but it’s the most common of the three. Cancer that starts in your eyeball generally starts in the uvea or the choroid.

The uvea is the center layer of your eyeball and includes your iris and the ciliary. The choroid is the layer of blood vessels and connective tissue between your sclera and your retina. Nearly all of the melanoma that occurs in the eye occurs in the choroid or ciliary body. Only five percent happens in the iris but when they do, they are easy to catch and doctors can usually treat them effectively. This form grows slowly and rarely spreads.

Melanomas of the eyeball are separated into two kinds, depending on the shape of the cell. There are spindle cells and epithelioid (non-spindle) cells. The spindle cells spread slower and are easier to treat than the non-spindle cells. Regardless of the type of cell, treatments for melanomas of the eye include surgery (either traditional or laser), radiotherapy, or a combination of the two.

Lymphoma of the Eye

Lymphoma is the second of the two main types of cancers of the eye. It starts in the lymph nodes, which are located all over your body and are part of your immune system. Intraoccular lymphomas are extremely rare and are always of the non-Hodgkins type. People with weakened immune systems caused by such conditions as AIDS, age or other illness are much more likely to contract this form. Intraocular lymphoma is treated in a variety of manners including radiotherapy, chemotherapy, biotherapy or combinations of these.

Rare Ocular Cancers in Children

There are two types of ocular cancer that are extremely rare and found only in children. The first of these is medulloepithelioma and is a type of tumor. It doesn’t usually spread and is treated by removing the tumor. Retinoblastoma almost always occurs in children under 5 years old and is, very simply stated, immature retina cells that didn’t develop properly in the womb and turned into a tumor. It can be treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, crytotherapy, surgery or in a few other manners.

Most cancers of the eye are slower-spreading than other cancers and are frequently extremely treatable. The key to beating them is catching them early. In order to do this, take eye supplements regularly and make regular appointments with your eye doctor, just as you do with your dentist or your personal physician. As with all cancers, the earlier you catch it, the better your odds are of getting rid of it.