Eye cancer

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Treatment of eye cancer

Treatment for eye cancer is given by cancer specialists (oncologists). Some specialize in surgery, some in radiation therapy and others in chemotherapy (drugs). These doctors work with the person with cancer to decide on a treatment plan.

Treatment plans are designed to meet the unique needs of each person with cancer. Treatment decisions for eye cancer are based on:

  • the location of the tumour
  • the type of tumour
  • the stage of the tumour
  • the effect the tumour has on vision
  • the effect treatment will have on vision
  • the person’s overall health
  • whether it is a new tumour or a recurrence

Treatment options for eye cancer

  • surgery
    • A surgical resection removes a tumour from the eye and a small amount of healthy tissue around it.
    • Enucleation is the removal of the entire eyeball.
    • Exenteration is surgery that removes the eye and surrounding tissues from the eye socket (orbit).
    • The person can be fitted for an artificial eye (ocular prosthesis) after an enucleation and exenteration.
  • radiation therapy
    • Brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy) uses a radioactive plaque placed on the tumour.
    • External beam radiation therapy may be used to treat some types of eye cancer.
      • Stereotactic radiation therapy is sometimes used to treat eye cancer.
      • Proton beam radiation therapy is a form of external beam radiation therapy that is sometimes used to treat eye cancer.
  • chemotherapy
    • Chemotherapy is often used to treat ocular lymphoma. It is used less often for intraocular melanoma.
    • Topical chemotherapy may be used for certain types of tumours, such as conjunctival or eyelid tumours.
  • active surveillance
    • Active surveillance is closely monitoring the person without giving treatment right away.
    • It may be an option for some very small, slow-growing eye melanomas.
  • laser surgery
    • Transpupillary thermotherapy (TTT) and laser surgery (photocoagulation) may be used in addition to other treatments. They are not used as primary therapy to treat eye cancer.
  • follow-up after treatment is finished
    • It is important to have regular follow-up visits after treatment.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials investigate new and better ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. There are a few clinical trials in Canada that are open to people with eye cancer. Eye cancer trials may be broken down under the particular location or type of eye tumour. For example, you may need to look for clinical trials for intraocular or ocular melanoma or lymphoma, or cancer for specific parts of the eye, rather than just searching for eye cancer trials in general. For more information, go to clinical trials.

See a list of questions to ask your doctor about treatment.


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