Eye cancer

NHS Choices information about ocular melanoma (eye cancer), with links to other useful resources.

Information written and reviewed by Certified Doctors.

Contents

Key Information

What should I do?

If you think you have this condition you should see a doctor within 48 hours.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor might suspect carcinoma in situ of the eye based on your symptoms or by examining your eye. You might be referred to an eye specialist for further tests to confirm the diagnosis. These can include an ultrasound scan of your eye, or a ‘fluorescein angiogram’, where pictures of the suspected carcinoma are taken after injecting a dye into your bloodstream. In some cases a small sample of the affected tissue (biopsy) might need to be taken and sent for analysis.

What is the treatment?

If you are diagnosed with this condition, the treatment will depend on the type, size and location of the tumour. These can include:

  • radiotherapy
  • surgical procedures might also be used if the above is unsuccessful or not recommended by your doctor.

When to worry?

If you any of the following symptoms, please seek medical help immediately:

  • loss of vision
  • pressure sensation behind your eye
  • severe pain in your eye or a red eye.

Introduction

The most common type of cancer to affect the eye is ocular melanoma, or melanoma of the eye.

Melanoma of the eye

Melanoma is cancer that develops from pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. Most melanomas begin to grow in the skin, but it is possible for melanomas to begin in other parts of the body such as the eye.

Symptoms include blurred vision, flashing lights, shadows and cataracts (misting of the lens in your eye).

The outlook for ocular melanoma depends on how advanced it is when you are diagnosed and which parts of the eye are involved. Of people diagnosed with early-stage melanoma, when the cancer is still small, about 84% will live for at least five years after diagnosis.

Retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer that affects children younger than five. It is usually caught and treated early in the UK, which is why over 98% of children with retinoblastoma are successfully treated.

Content supplied by NHS Choices