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Conjunctival Tumors


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Conjunctival tumors are malignant cancers that grow on the outer surface of the eye. The most common types of conjunctival tumors are squamous cell carcinoma, malignant melanoma, and lymphoma.

Squamous cell carcinomas rarely metastasize, but can invade the area around the eye into the orbit and sinuses. Malignant melanomas can start as a nevus (freckle) or can arise as newly formed pigmentation. Lymphoma of the eye can be a sign of systemic lymphoma or be confined to the conjunctiva.

Both squamous cell carcinomas and malignant conjunctival melanomas should be removed. Most small conjunctival tumors can be photographed and followed for evidence of growth prior to treatment.

Small tumors can be completely removed surgically. In other instances, cryotherapy (freezing therapy) may be necessary or chemotherapy eye drops may be used to treat the entire surface of the eye.


An eye cancer specialist can determine if you have an eye cancer by performing a complete clinical examination. The examination may include asking questions about your medical history, examining both eyes, looking into the eye at the tumor, doing an ultrasound examination, CT scan, MRI, obtaining specialized photographs and sometimes a biopsy is necessary.

Your doctor may request that you have a complete physical examination and specific tests depending upon what he sees inside your eye. Tests may include chest x-ray, complete blood count, MRI or CT scan.


Your doctor will recommend treatment based on your medical history and the findings from the eye examination. It is not always necessary to treat all eye cancers immediately. If a tumor is very small or very slow growing, sometimes the doctor will closely monitor the tumor. If there are any concerns, then treatment can be started. Treatment usually is recommended when your physician determines that the tumor shows evidence of growth or if there is the possibility of spreading to other parts of the body if left untreated.

Chemotherapy Eye Drops - Although it is rarely used for eye cancer, chemotherapy is the most common type of treatment for many other types of cancer. Chemotherapy is the treatment of disease by means of drugs that have a specific toxic effect upon the cancer cells. Chemotherapy selectively destroys cancerous tissue. There are many chemotherapeutic drugs available. Each type of drug has potential side effects such as skin problems, nausea, vomiting, and infections. Chemotherapy is often recommended for retinoblastoma and sometimes for choroidal metastasis, conjunctival tumors, lymphoma and metastatic choroidal melanoma. 

Cryotherapy - Cryotherapy is the use of low temperatures to treat disease. Cryotherapy is applied under local anesthesia. The goal of cryotherapy is to freeze the malignant tissues in order to stimulate inflammation and scarring of this tissue. Cryotherapy may be recommended for conjunctival or eyelid tumors.

Why Choose Us?

Multidisciplinary Care Teams. You’ll have your cancer evaluated and treated by a team of eye experts. They represent several specialties: ophthalmology, dermatology, ocular oncology, radiation oncology and pathology. It adds up to personalized, well-rounded care focused on giving you an optimal quality of life.

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute: Ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report. Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is the top-rated facility in the country for the treatment of diseases and disorders of the eye, according to U.S. News & World Report. When you choose us for your eye care, you will receive the best care in the nation in a compassionate setting.

A History of Firsts.  We were the first center in the country to use topical interferon drops to treat eye cancer – without biopsy or surgery. This and many other research advances ensure you the best possible cancer and eye care.

Safer, More Accurate Diagnosis. Sylvester and Bascom Palmer offer ultra-high frequency OCT (optical coherence tomography). This optical ultrasound diagnoses melanomas and inner eyelid (conjunctival) tumors without biopsy or radiation.

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