After you’ve completed treatment for eye (ocular) cancer, you continue to receive ongoing care and support from your healthcare team. These follow-up appointments are part of your survivorship care plan to ensure that cancer hasn’t returned and manage any side effects – whether they persist after treatment or develop later on.
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center offers comprehensive survivorship services, providing you with all the care and support you need to feel your best. Whether you need treatment for side effects, rehabilitation to help you manage vision changes, or one-on-one support to adjust to vision loss, we’re here for you. You can depend on Sylvester’s compassionate, experienced team to offer guidance and support every step of the way.
Living as an eye cancer survivor
When you’re a survivor of ocular melanoma, intraocular choroidal melanoma, retinoblastoma, or another type of eye cancer, it’s natural to be concerned about the cancer coming back. We create a personalized survivorship care plan that ensures you get all the care and support you need for healthy eyes and vision. It is based on input from your cancer care team and gives you and your healthcare providers information about your cancer treatments. It includes follow-up visits and testing recommendations to keep you healthy. You also get information about local and national organizations that support eye cancer survivors and families.
What to expect during eye cancer follow-up visits
Eye cancer can come back years after your diagnosis, so you can expect to see your care team regularly for checkups to keep you healthy. You'll see your team every three to six months for the first five years, and then every six to 12 months after that.
Your appointments may include an eye exam and blood and imaging tests to ensure cancer hasn't spread – particularly to your liver or lungs. These follow-up visits are essential even if you had surgery to remove an eye because cancer can still come back around the eye or in other areas of your body.
These visits also give you a chance to tell us about any vision changes, new symptoms, or other health concerns. It’s an opportunity to ask questions and get additional support, including individual counseling and cancer support groups.
If you notice changes in your vision or how your eye looks, talk to your team right away – don’t wait for your next appointment.
What are eye cancer treatment side effects?
You may experience side effects after treatment right away, or they can develop years later, called late effects. We’re here to help you manage them. It’s comforting to know you’re working with an experienced team.
Radiation side effects
Radiation – including brachytherapy, proton beam radiation, or stereotactic radiosurgery – can damage the eye and cause dry eye, blurry vision, cataracts, retinal detachment, glaucoma, loss of eyelashes, tear duct problems, or bleeding. We offer leading-edge treatment to manage these conditions. Your team will discuss all your options to help you decide what’s right for you.
Laser therapy side effects
Similar to radiation therapy, the main side effect of laser therapy is eye damage. Side effects depend on the size and location of your eye tumor.
Chemotherapy side effects
Chemotherapy side effects depend on the type of medicine, how it’s given, and how long treatment lasts. Sometimes, eye cancer chemotherapy is given as eyedrops. Often, they don’t cause the same symptoms as systemic chemotherapy, which goes through your entire body. However, chemotherapy eyedrops may cause eye pain, sensitivity to light, and headaches.
Eye surgery side effects
Eye surgery has the same potential side effects as other types of surgery, including infection, problems from anesthesia, and pain. If you had surgery to remove your eye, there’s still a risk that an eye tumor could come back in the surrounding area. Follow-up visits let us find problems early, when they can be treated most successfully.
If you had prosthetic eye plastic surgery and have problems after the procedure – such as changes to your eyelid or eye socket – our expert eye surgeons provide comprehensive care to make sure you’re happy with how the artificial eye looks and feels.
Taking care of your eyes after ocular cancer
Bascom Palmer Eye Institute offers expert care and guidance to protect your eyes and vision. We offer a full range of services for eye and vision health.
There are also things you can do to keep your eyes as healthy as possible, such as:
- Don’t smoke. Smoking can increase your risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and other eye diseases.
- Protect your eyes. Wear sunglasses when you’re outside and safety glasses whenever you’re doing something that puts you at risk for eye injuries, such as construction work or sports like racquetball.
- Wash your hands often. This will help prevent eye infections. Try to limit touching your eyes.
- Be careful with contact lenses. Put lenses in and remove them gently. Make sure you clean them and replace them as recommended.
- Tell your team about any changes. Even if you’re between survivorship visits, make sure you let your doctor know about any changes to your eyes or eyesight.
If you have limited vision or you’ve lost eyesight, we offer a full range of services to assist you – from eyeglass prescriptions, low-vision services, and more. It’s comforting to know you have access to the latest advancements in eye care.
How can I learn more about long-term follow-up care for eye cancer survivors?
Follow-up care is essential to keeping you healthy and ensuring you have the highest quality of life possible. To learn more about our survivorship care program and personalized services for eye cancer survivors, email us at SCCCSURVIVORSHIP@miami.edu.