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Tear Gland (Lacrimal) Tumors


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Malignant epithelial tumors of the lacrimal (tear) gland make up just two percent of tumors of the eye socket. Adenoid cystic carcinoma (AdCC) are more frequently diagnosed (nearly 50 percent of cancerous lacrimal gland tumors).

Why Choose Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Sylvester is an NCI-designated cancer center. The National Cancer Institute has recognized Sylvester for its outstanding work conducting research in its laboratories, treating patients in its clinics and hospitals, and reaching out to medically underserved communities with innovative prevention strategies.

Multidisciplinary care teams. Your cancer is assessed and treated by a variety of eye professionals. This includes ophthalmologists, dermatologists, ocular and radiation oncologists, and pathologists. You'll receive highly personalized care that ensures your best possible results.

Pre-surgical chemotherapy options. Intra-arterial chemotherapy (IACC), provided prior to surgery, was pioneered at Sylvester and appears to improve overall survival and decrease disease recurrence.

Top-ranked eye prosthesis (artificial replacement) options. If the eyeball must be removed to cure cancer, a prosthetic eye improves your appearance and protects the space and cells behind your eye. The prosthesis is custom designed to match the iris and pupil of your other eye so you can have more confidence and lifetime health after treatment.

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is 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.

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Treatment for lacrimal (tear gland) cancers may involve a combination of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and surgery.

  • Chemotherapy

    Neoadjuvant (prior to surgery) intra-arterial chemotherapy (IACC) seems to improve survival and decrease cancer recurrence. A catheter is threaded into the groin and up to the lacrimal artery where the chemotherapy is injected. This helps prevent systemic side effects.

  • Immunotherapy or Biologic Therapy

    Also called biologic therapy, immunotherapy boosts the body's natural defenses to fight the tumor. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore your immune system function. Rituximab is the most common immunotherapy used in treating lacrimal gland tumors.

  • Exenteration

    For more advanced disease, the surgeon removes the eye and eyelid, fat, nerves, and muscle found in the eye socket area. You can be fitted for a customized artificial eye (prosthesis) after the surgery. Our experts will match the size and color to the other eye.


During an eye exam, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and may check your vision and eye movements with an indirect ophthalmoscope (an instrument with a light and a small magnifying lens). 

Imaging tests used for diagnosing lacrimal tumors can include:

  • Ultrasound 

    This test is usually done to determine the size, shape, and location of the tumor. Sylvester has state-of-the-art ultrasound machines with dedicated highly trained ultrasound technicians. Working with Bascom Palmer eye experts, they produce fast, accurate diagnostic results.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan

    An MRI of the head allows us to see inside the eye and other tissues.

  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan

    PET scans help us determine if the tumor has spread to other areas of the eye or body.

  • Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

    X-rays take a series of pictures of the inside of your eye and surrounding structures. These images are then combined by a computer, giving clear 3-D images of the area.

  • Biopsy

    Symptoms and tests might suggest you have a lacrimal tumor, but a biopsy is usually needed to confirm the diagnosis. An ophthalmologist often will perform a biopsy to remove cells from your tear gland. The cells in the biopsy sample are sent to a lab to be examined under a microscope and tested for signs of cancer.

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.