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Intraocular Tumors


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Ocular oncology encompasses the management of all tumors involving the eye, eyelid, orbit and tear, or lacrimal, glands. Intraocular tumors affect adults and children, and tumors may occur in one eye or may involve both eyes.

Primary eye cancers are rare. They can occur within the eye, on the eye's surface, in the skin cells around the eye, or in your glands that produce tears.

Secondary eye cancers occur more frequently. These are tumors from other parts of the body that have spread to the eye.

Common intraocular tumors include:

Choroidal melanoma is the most common primary intraocular tumor in adults. It arises from the pigmented cells of the choroid of the eye and is not a tumor that started somewhere else and spread to the eye. A choroidal melanoma is malignant, meaning that the cancer may metastasize and eventually spread to other parts of the body.

A choroidal hemangioma is comprised of blood vessels that may grow within the choroid (the blood vessel layer beneath the retina). These are not cancers and never metastasize. However, if the hemangioma is located in the area of central vision of the eye it can leak fluid. That may cause a retinal detachment and visual function may be affected.

Many choroidal hemangiomas can be safely monitored by your eye doctor without the need of further treatment. Treatment options may include laser photocoagulation to decrease the amount of fluid leakage or low doses of external beam radiation therapy.

Choroidal Metastasis are malignant tumors from other parts of the body can spread in and around the eye. Metastatic cancers that appear in the eye usually come from a primary cancer of the breast in women and the lungs in men. Other less common sites of origin include the prostate, kidneys, thyroid, and the gastrointestinal tract. Blood cell tumors (lymphomas and leukemia) also can spread to the eye. Patient care will be coordinated between the eye cancer specialist, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist. Treatment options may include chemotherapy, external beam radiation therapy, or, more rarely, enucleation.

choroidal nevus looks like a raised freckle on the skin and can occur inside the eye. A choroidal freckle can become malignant, so should be closely monitored and examined by an ophthalmologist every four to six months to check if the pigmentation, size or characteristics of the nevus has changed. In most cases, the only treatment recommended is close observation and monitoring by an ocular oncologist.

Iris tumors can grow within and behind the iris (the colored portion of the eye that controls the amount of light entering the eye). Though many iris tumors are cysts or a nevus, malignant melanomas can occur in this area. Most pigmented iris tumors do not grow. They are photographed and monitored with a special slit lamp and high frequency ultrasound to establish a baseline for future comparisons. When an iris tumor is documented to grow, treatment is recommended. Most small iris melanomas can be surgically removed. Radiation plaque therapy or enucleation may be considered for larger iris tumors.

Retinoblastoma is the most common intraocular cancer in children, with an estimated 400 - 500 cases in the U.S each year. It is extremely rare in adults.

Lymphoma tumors can appear in the eyelid tissue, lacrimal (tear) gland and the orbit. Treatment involves a multi-disciplinary approach with hematology/oncology and/or radiation oncology. The oculoplastic surgeon aids in diagnosis of the condition and monitors the patient for recurrence and ophthalmic side effects of treatment.


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.

Why Choose Us?

Leading-Edge Intra-Arterial Chemotherapy for Children with Retinoblastoma. Your child has twice the chance his or her eye will be spared. Using intra-arterial chemotherapy, we target chemotherapy directly to the eye tumor. This curative treatment has decreased the number of eye removals (for retinoblastoma) by half. It is also easier on developing bodies. Sylvester is the only center in the Southeastern U.S. and one of a few in the country that is highly skilled at this treatment.

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.

Top-Ranked Eye Prosthesis (Artificial Replacement) Options. More confidence and better health after cancer. If your eyeball must be removed to cure your cancer, a prosthetic eye improves your appearance and protects the space and cells behind your eye. We custom design your prosthesis to match the iris and pupil of your other eye.

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.

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