Understanding the Types of Eye Cancer 

Types of Eye Cancer
Understanding the Types of Eye Cancer 

Eye cancer is uncommon in all forms. Melanoma and lymphoma are the two most frequent kinds of eye cancer in adults. Retinoblastoma is the most prevalent form in youngsters.

There are eye cancers with a promising prognosis that may be treated without requiring the removal of the affected eye. However, malignancies of the eyes that have spread to other parts of the body can be fatal. Blindness may result from eye cancer if it is not identified and treated on time.

Continue reading to find out more about the symptoms, available treatments, and risk factors of the most prevalent forms of eye cancer.

Ocular melanoma

The most frequent kind of tumor that can begin in an adult's eyes is ocular melanoma. Uveal melanoma is the most prevalent kind of ocular melanoma, affecting 6-7 persons per million in Western nations annually.

Within ten to fifteen years, the cancer spreads to distant tissues in around half of cases of uveal melanoma patients. Nearly everyone who develops metastatic uveal melanoma will ultimately pass away from the disease.

Symptoms of ocular melanoma

Ocular melanoma symptoms could not show up for years. When symptoms appear, they could consist of:
  • blurred vision
  • double vision
  • reduced vision
  • vision loss
  • eye irritation
  • eye pain
  • flashes of light

Treatment options for ocular melanoma

Ocular melanoma treatment options include:
  • a "watch and wait" strategy to observe any changes in the cancer
  • treatment with radiation (usually internal radiation)
  • surgery to remove your whole eye or just the damaged tissue
  • laser and heat therapies
In 2022, the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug tebentafusp-ten, also known as Kimmtrak, to treat uveal melanoma in patients with a certain HLA gene mutation that is resistant to surgical removal.

Risk factors for ocular melanoma

You have an increased risk of acquiring ocular melanoma if you:
  • pale skin (ocular melanoma is 8–10 times more common in White people than Black people).
  • an atypical mole on your skin
  • a mole on your iris
  • freckles
  • light eye colour
A history of:
  • working in sunlight
  • tanning
  • engaging in further outdoor pursuits under the sun


Cancer known as lymphoma arises in lymphocytes, a subset of white blood cells. About 30% of lymphomas arise outside of the lymph nodes, spleen, or bone marrow, while the majority still occur in lymph nodes.

About 1-2 percent of lymphomas outside of lymph nodes are incredibly unusual eye lymphomas. The majority of instances are non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a subtype.

According to a 2023 study, survival rates for eye lymphoma might vary from 54.3% to 96.9%, contingent on the patient's age, ethnicity, and tumor site.

Symptoms of eye lymphoma

Symptoms that could exist include:
  • blurry vision
  • decrease or loss of vision
  • floaters in your eye
  • eye pain (in rare cases)
  • light sensitivity
  • redness or swelling

Treatment options for eye lymphoma

Options for treating ocular lymphoma comprise:
  • chemotherapy
  • injections into your eye
  • surgery
  • chemotherapy is frequently used in conjunction with radiation therapy

Risk factors for eye lymphoma

The chance of acquiring eye lymphoma is higher in those with weakened immune systems. It typically strikes adults in their 40s or 50s, with women being affected roughly twice as frequently as males.


The most prevalent primary eye malignancy in children is retinoblastoma. The retina is where it begins.

Retinoblastoma often has a favourable prognosis, with over 95% of cases surviving in affluent nations.

Symptoms of retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma symptoms can include:
  • Leukocoria is a pale pupillary reaction that affects 60% of patients with retinoblastoma.
  • crossed eyes (strabismus)
  • decreased vision
  • trouble moving your eye
  • eye pain and redness
  • eye inflammation
  • a visible growth

Treatment options for retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma treatment options include:
  • radiation therapy
  • surgery to remove your eye
  • chemotherapy
  • transpupillary thermal therapy
  • cryotherapy

Risk factors for retinoblastoma

Children under the age of three who have a family history of retinoblastoma are most at risk of having this malignancy. To find other risk variables, more investigation is required.


A type of cancer known as medulloepithelioma typically affects the ciliary body of your eye, which is responsible for producing the fluid inside of it. 90% of tumors can manifest before the age of ten. The 5-year survival rate for this cancer is 90–95% if the afflicted eye is removed.

It's unclear how many people are impacted by this cancer because it's so uncommon.

Symptoms of medulloepithelioma

Rarely do small tumors generate symptoms. It is typically not until the tumor is big enough to be seen through the pupil that this malignancy is detected. Possible symptoms include:
  • vision loss
  • a visible mass
  • eye redness
  • pupillary reflex
  • pain

Treatment options for medulloepithelioma

Treatment options include:
  • Enucleation, the conventional therapy for big tumors, involves the removal of the eye.
  • surgery to remove the tumor
  • radiation therapy
  • cryotherapy

Risk factors for medulloepithelioma

Ages 2 to 10 seem to be the most common age range for medulloepithelioma cases.

Squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva

About 1 in 5 million people in the UK and 1 in 53,000 in Brisbane, Australia are affected by squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva each year. It starts in the thin, transparent membrane covering the inner lid and white of your eye.

Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva

Symptoms may include:
  • a circular bulge or mushy bulk
  • sensation as though something is in your eye
  • irritation
  • redness
  • itchiness
  • reduced visual acuity

Options for treatment conjunctival squamous cell carcinoma

Treatment options include:
  • chemotherapy
  • cryotherapy
  • eye removal
  • immunotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • surgery

Risk factors for conjunctival squamous cell carcinoma

Risk factors include:
  • light skin tone
  • allergic conjunctivitis
  • hepatitis
  • exposure to ultraviolet radiation
  • HIV
  • HPV

Other types of eye cancer

Among the other forms of eye cancer are:
  • Metastatic eye cancer: When cancer moves from one area of your body to your eye, this occurs.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the cornea: The cells covering your iris and pupil are where this cancer begins to grow.
  • Malignant neoplasm of the caruncle: The caruncle, the pink area of your inner eye that secretes oil, is where this cancer begins to grow.
  • Adenocarcinoma of the retinal pigment: Your retina is nourished by glandular cells, which are where this cancer starts.

How is eye cancer diagnosed?

To check for structural issues with your eyes, your eye doctor can do a thorough examination of your eyes. They will probably refer you to a specialist for more testing if they detect cancer.

You might be put through exams like:
  • ultrasound
  • fluorescein angiography
  • fine-needle aspiration biopsy
  • blood tests
  • improved optical coherence tomography depth imaging

When to consult a doctor

If you have changes in your vision or other potential signs of eye cancer that are not associated with a known cause, you must make an appointment with your eye doctor. Even if there can be another cause for your symptoms, receiving a cancer diagnosis as soon as possible will increase your chances of keeping your vision intact.


Eye cancer is uncommon in all forms. Melanoma is the most common kind in adults, whereas retinoblastoma is the most common type in children.

Not all cases of eye cancer produce symptoms and those that do typically have a wide range of possible causes. You must see your doctor if you have any changes in your vision, eye bulging, or other possible red flags of a serious eye condition.


Is eye cancer curable?

Your prognosis, or expected course of treatment, is dependent on several variables, such as the size, location, and degree of tumor spread. For instance, 95% of small and medium intraocular melanomas are removed with brachytherapy. One may not be able to cure eye cancer. Its growth within your eyeball may be controlled, though.

How common are eye cancers?

The cells that make up your eyeball and surrounding tissues, such as your eyelids and tear ducts, are where eye malignancies begin. Eye cancer is exceedingly rare in all kinds. The most prevalent kinds are retinoblastoma and uveal melanomas, which originate in the uvea, the centre part of the eye.

Are eye floaters a sign of cancer?

Most floaters are not a sign of cancer.

Are all eye tumors cancerous?

Not all tumors of the eye, though, are malignant. A benign tumor stays in one place and does not spread to other areas of the body. A choroidal nevus is the most frequent benign tumor in the eye. A vascular tumor called a choroidal hemangioma is another type of eye tumor.

Can eye cancer cause blindness?

A fully developed ocular melanoma may result in blindness. Melanoma of the eyes that metastasizes. Eye melanoma has the potential to spread to distant parts of the body such as the liver, lungs, and bones in addition to the eye.

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