Eye Cancer

How Eye Cancer Occur?

Eye cancer occurs when healthy cells around the eye change or grow rapidly in a disorganized way, forming a mass called a tumor. When these cells form in the eye it is known as intraocular cancer or primary eye cancer. If the cells spread to the eye from other parts of the body it is called secondary eye cancer.

Very common intraocular cancers in adults are melanoma and lymphoma and in children, it is retinoblastoma which starts in the cells of the retina.



What are the symptoms of eye cancer?

Eye cancer symptoms occur very late and many times these symptoms happen due to other reasons.
The common sign is the change in the vision.
You may see flashes of light and spots.
You may get a dark spot in the eye or size or shape may change.

Types of intraocular or primary cancers

Uveal melanoma

It is a common type of primary cancer. This happens when cells form a tumor in a part of the eye called uvea.

The uvea has three parts

Iris: this is the colored part of the eye that controls the amount of the light entering the eye.

Ciliary body: it produces watery fluid in the eye and helps you focus.

Choroid: this is the layer under the retina which is pigmented colored cells that nourish the inside of the eye. This is the layer where the cells most commonly start to change and become cancerous.


This type of cancer is common in children. It occurs in children below 5 years of age. This forms in the very back part of the eye called the retina. These retinoblasts cells grow rapidly and form a tumor along with the child growth.

Intraocular lymphoma

it is a rare type of cancer and is very difficult to diagnose. The lymphatic system is made of lymph nodes, these glands help in clearing of waste and germs. These are part of your immune system and present all over your body. This rare type of cancer starts in these lymph nodes.

Conjunctival melanoma

it is a tumor of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a lining outside the eyeball and inside the eyelid. This cancer develops inside this lining. It looks like dark spots on your eye. If it’s not treated properly it will spread to other parts of your body through the lymphatic system.

Lacrimal gland cancer

this type of tumor can be benign or malignant. This is the gland that produces tears.

Eyelid carcinoma

this occurs on or inside the eyelid. The common form of this is called basal cell carcinoma mostly occurs in the lower lid. The main cause of this is high exposure to the sun. This type of cancer can be treated if identified at an early stage.

Secondary cancers

these cancers do not start in the eye, they are passed on to eye from other parts of the body. In women, it is caused due to breast cancer and in men; it is caused due to lung cancer. It may pass from other parts like skin, kidney, colon, and thyroid.




Your ophthalmologist will check your vision, and the way you move the eyes. The doctor may use a light and a magnifying lens to check if there are any signs of a tumor inside the eye. The get a clear picture the doctor may suggest for MRI or ultrasound and may also recommend a biopsy to check if it is a cancer growth.

Treatment of Eye Cancer

More than one specialist is involved in the treatment of intraocular melanoma with multiple treatments. This is called a multidisciplinary approach.

  • Observation if the tumor is small and has a very slow growth, and if the patient has no problem then the doctor may watch is closely and treat it only if the tumor grows bigger than 10mm in diameter or more than 2 mm in height or if it shows any sign of discomfort.
  • Surgery Your doctor may suggest surgery for removing a part of or the entire eye depending upon the size of the tumor.
  • Radiation therapy This therapy is used to kill the cancer cells, with or without surgery. But, this may damage healthy cells, and makes your eyes dry, eyelashes may fallout, your vision may be blurry.
  • Laser therapy side effects are less when compared to radiation or surgery. It is also known as thermotherapy or transpupillary therapy. A narrow intense beam of infrared light is passed on your eye to shrink a small tumor. This is mostly used to treat eye melanoma, as these cells absorb the light energy from the laser. It is not done for intraocular lymphoma.