What is Eye cancer?

Eye cancer can occur in one or both eyes and can develop in any part of the eye. It is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition.

The eye is comprised of the eyeball, eyelids and surrounding tissues. The main structures are the cornea, lens, iris, and conjunctiva.

Eye cancer is also known as ocular cancer.

The term ocular cancer can also be used to refer to the type of cancer that affects the eye.

It is important to note that the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies the different types of ocular cancer.

Types of eye cancer

There are two main types of eye cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma, which is also known as ocular melanoma
  • Melanoma, which is also known as ocular lymphoma

Eye cancer is sometimes referred to as eye cancer.

The main types of eye cancer include:

  • Conjunctival melanocytic nevus
  • Conjunctival melanoma
  • Conjunctival lymphoma
  • Orbital lymphoma
  • Orbital melanoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Conjunctival intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN)
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva. It can affect children and adults in different ways.

It can affect one or both eyes and can develop gradually or suddenly.

Symptoms of conjunctivitis include:

  • Redness and inflammation of the eye
  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Eye discharge
  • Sensitivity to light and/or wind
  • Blurred vision

The main types of conjunctivitis include:

  • Allergic conjunctivitis
  • Ectopic ocular abscess
  • Herpetic conjunctivitis
  • Non-allergic conjunctivitis
  • Shingles

How common is eye cancer?

Eye cancer is rare. It affects around 1 out of every 3,000 people.

Eye cancer is the second most common cancer in the world, after skin cancer.

Approximately one in 3 people in the UK will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime.

The most common types of cancer that affect the eye are:

  • Melanoma
  • Lymphoma
  • Sclerosing retinitis
  • Traumatic cataract

What causes eye cancer?

Eye cancer can develop for a number of reasons.

For example, the following risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing eye cancer:

  • Sunlight exposure
  • Family history
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Certain occupations
  • Long-term use of certain medications

The following risk factors may increase the risk of developing eye cancer:

  • Certain medications
  • Exposure to UV radiation
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • History of skin cancer

How is eye cancer diagnosed?

The symptoms of eye cancer can sometimes be confused with those of other conditions.

If you have any symptoms that concern you, it is important to see an eye specialist for a diagnosis.

You should visit an eye specialist if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Changes in vision
  • Redness or swelling of the eye
  • Discharge from one or both eyes
  • Pain in the eye
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Headache

Your eye specialist will examine your eyes to find out whether you have developed eye cancer.

They might also perform a number of tests to determine the exact type of cancer you have.

These tests may include:

  • A general check
  • A slit-lamp examination
  • An eye examination
  • A visual field test
  • A general examination of the head and neck
  • A biopsy

Tests may also be performed to look for signs of other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.

In this case, you may be referred to a specialist for further tests.

How is eye cancer treated?

The treatment of eye cancer will depend on the type of cancer you have and how advanced it is.

The type of treatment you receive will depend on the type and location of the cancer.

It is important that you speak with your doctor about your treatment options.

The main types of treatment for eye cancer include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Targeted drug therapy
  • Targeted therapy plus chemotherapy

Surgery

Surgery is the primary treatment for eye cancer.

Surgical procedures for eye cancer typically include the following:

  • Removal of the eye
  • Removal of the affected eye
  • Removal of the affected eye if the other eye has been affected

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is the main treatment option for eye cancer.

It is usually used to treat conjunctival lymphoma.

Radiotherapy can also be used to treat some types of squamous cell carcinoma of the eye and melanoma.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is also used to treat many types of eye cancer.

It is typically used to treat conjunctival lymphoma.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a treatment option for eye cancer that use your immune system to fight the cancer.

Targeted drug therapy

Targeted drug therapy is a treatment option for eye cancer that uses drugs that target specific changes in your cancer cells.

Targeted drug therapy may also be used to treat conjunctival lymphoma.

Hormonal therapy

Hormonal therapy is a treatment option for eye cancer that uses drugs to help stop your body from producing hormones that have the potential to cause eye cancer.

Targeted drug therapy plus chemotherapy

Targeted drug therapy plus chemotherapy is a treatment option for eye cancer that uses targeted drugs to target your cancer cells.

Hormonal therapy may also be used to treat some types of conjunctival melanoma.

Targeted drug treatment plus chemotherapy is usually used to target squamous cell carcinoma of the eye.

How can eye cancer be prevented?

If you have eye cancer, the best way to prevent the condition is to avoid the sun.

You should also wear sunglasses that protect you from both UVA and UVB rays.

You should also try to avoid spending time outdoors during peak hours, especially in the middle of the day.

If you are exposed to UV rays, wear sunglasses.

The side effects of sun damage can be reduced by wearing sunglasses.

The bottom line

Eye cancer, also known as ocular cancer, is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition.

It is often caused by exposure to UV radiation.

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