Feb 4 World Cancer Day: What To Know About Eye Cancer

February 4 is world cancer day, so to contribute and raise awareness, we have decided to share some facts on eye cancer. Eye cancer is not a common disease, however; the American Cancer Society predicts that there will be 3,320 new cancers (mainly melanomas) will be discovered in the US and 400 deaths. 


There are two types of eye cancer. There is primary eye cancer, which is where the disease starts in the eye. Then, there is secondary eye cancer, which is more common, and starts in another place and spreads to the eye. 


The most common type of eye cancer is melanoma. Eye melanoma is usually detected as a dark spot in your eye found by an optometrist during an eye examination. It is to be noted that 9 out of 10 melanomas start in the skin. 


What are the signs and symptoms? 


It is common for people to have no symptoms, and then the cancer is found during a regular eye exam. According to Cancer.net, the most common symptom is a painless loss of vision. Other symptoms can include sight issues, losing part of your field of vision, seeing flashes of light, seeing spots, squiggly lines, or floaters in your vision, and having a dark spot on your iris. 


How is it diagnosed? 


Eye cancer is diagnosed by a doctor during an eye examination using a lighted microscope tool called a ophthalmoscope. The doctor may also order an ultrasound, MRI, or CT Scan for a better look. They can also use Fluorescein angiography where they take a photo of your eye using a fluorescent dye. If there is a visible tumor, then they can use fine needle biopsy, however; Cancer.net says that 95% of intraocular melanoma is diagnosed without this procedure. You can read more about the tests to diagnose eye cancer on Cancer.org.


What if cancer is found? 


If cancer is found, they will determine the cancer’s growth and spread to determine what stage the cancer is in. When they determine the stage, they will decide what the treatment options are. 


What are the survival rates? 


According to the American Cancer Society, there is an 82% 5-year relative survival rate for eye melanoma. If the cancer is localized or regional, the survival rate is higher than if it has spread distantly through the body. It is to be noted that survival rates are estimates based on previous outcomes and cannot predict accuracy for any particular case. 


Overall, eye cancer is not one of the most common types of cancers, but it is still one to be aware of. There is genetic research being done to help determine people at high risk of developing eye cancer. We hope in the future, research can make the number of cases per year even lower. 


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