Category: Worth knowing
Melanoma of the eye is, in doctors' opinions, the most frequently occurring internal neoplasm of the eye of adults. According to statistics, as many as 20% of melanomas occur in the eyeball.
Malignant melanoma is a neoplasm that develops from pigmental cells called melanocytes. They are not only located on the skin, as it might seem, but also in the eyeball (on the iris, retina, choroid and ciliary body), and even in certain parts of the brain. Melanomas can develop in all of these places. The eye is the place where the neoplasm is located most frequently (apart from the skin and mucosa). The neoplasm developing there does not show any symptoms for a long time, and it is usually detected by chance, during a visit at an ophthalmologist's.
Melanoma of the eye, just like melanoma of the skin, occurs more frequently among people with a light complexion, with blue, grey or green eyes. Frequent exposure to UV radiation (also in a solarium) increases the risk of the occurrence of this cancer. People whose relatives (in particular close relatives) had melanoma or any other skin cancer are also in the risk group. Most frequently - in as many as 80% of cases - melanoma of the eye is located in the choroid, that is the central wall of the eyeball between the sclera and the retina. Sometimes the cancer affects the iris (the "colourful" part of the eye) or the conjunctiva, and then it has the form of a visible brown tumour which tends to grow fast, which often encourages patients to visit a physician. The rarest form of the disease is ciliary body melanoma, which generally develops asymptomatically, and in its advanced stage it may cause pain of the eyeball and visual disorders.
How to detect the cancer?
The fundamental test allowing for the detection of melanoma of the eye in a relatively unadvanced stage of its development is a specialist ophthalmologic examination with the use of a slit lamp and an eye speculum (and with the administration of drops dilating the pupils). In order to assess the advancement level of any lesions, an ultrasound examination and magnetic resonance is also carried out. The detection of any metastases in the lymph nodes (by means of sentinel lymph node biopsy), as well as in the liver and lungs has a huge significance for the determination of the prognosis in a particular case. If the lesions are detected early enough, the melanoma of the eye can be successfully removed, and the eye retained. Unfortunately, in most cases the cancer is diagnosed relatively late. Treatment consists most frequently in the removal of the entire eyeball or the content of the orbit. Additionally, irradiation and chemotherapy are also used as complementary therapy.
Prevention is the main thing
Treatment of the melanoma of the eye is very difficult, and therefore it is worth remembering of cancer prevention methods every day. They consist above all in avoiding, as far as possible, UV radiation (that is excessive sunbathing and visiting the solarium). While practising outdoor sports one should always remember to wear good glasses (that is glasses with appropriate attestation bought in an optician's shop) with UVA and UVB filters. Even if we have no vision defect we should visit an ophthalmologist at least once a year and have a detailed examination of the fundus of the eye with the administration of drops dilating the pupils. It is also worth remembering that just like in the case of melanoma of the skin, melanoma of the eye may develop from an existing nevus on the iris or conjunctiva (such lesions are especially well visible in people with blue eyes). If we have any such lesions, we should check them just like the nevuses on the skin. If "a mole" on the iris or conjunctiva grows, changes its shape (e.g. starts resembling a tumour), or if any new such eruptions appear, we should visit an ophthalmologist as soon as possible, and he/she may refer us to an oncologist.