Potential side effects of surgery for eye cancer
Side effects can occur with any type of treatment for eye cancer, but not everyone has them or experiences them in the same way. Side effects of surgery will depend mainly on the:
- type of surgery
- person’s overall health
- type of anesthetic used
Side effects can happen during, immediately after, or a few days or weeks after surgery. Most side effects go away after surgery. Late side effects can occur months or years after surgery. Some side effects may last a long time or be permanent.
It is important to report side effects to the healthcare team.
Eye cancer surgery can cause loss of some or all of the vision in the eye. If an enucleation or exenteration is done, then there is complete loss of vision on the affected side, which is permanent. Other surgeries can also cause some loss of vision, which can occur later on.
It takes time for a person to adjust to a loss of vision. There is help available for people with vision impairment or vision loss.
Nausea and vomiting can occur because of the effects of general anestheticanestheticA drug that causes anesthesia (the loss of some or all feeling or awareness). used during surgery. Medications are often given to prevent and control nausea and vomiting. Nausea and vomiting are temporary side effects and often go away a few days after surgery.
As with any type of surgery, pain can occur after eye cancer surgery because of trauma to the tissue during surgery. Pain-relieving medications are used to control pain. It may take time for pain to go away after surgery, depending on the procedure done and how the person heals and tolerates pain. Check with the doctor if pain does not go away or pain medicines do not relieve the pain.
After surgery, the person’s eyelids and face on the side of the eye surgery may be swollen and bruised for a few days. This occurs because of trauma to the tissue during surgery. Swelling and bruising will go away in time. It may help to use cold packs to reduce swelling and discomfort.
Bleeding or hemorrhage can occur if a blood vessel is not sealed off during surgery, or if the person has a blood clotting disorder. A pressure bandage is used right after enucleation surgery to help control bleeding. Nursing staff frequently check bandages for heavy bleeding right after eye cancer surgery. If bleeding occurs and is severe enough, the surgeon may have to take the person back to the operating room to find where bleeding is coming from and to stop it.
A small amount of bloody drainage may be expected after surgery. Report heavy bleeding to the doctor or the healthcare team.
Some people develop a wound infection after eye cancer surgery. This is not a common side effect, but can potentially occur after any type of surgery. The healthcare team will show the person how to clean and care for their eye or eye socket if their eye was removed. The doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops for a short time after surgery to help prevent infection. Wound infections are a temporary side effect of surgery.
Tell the doctor or healthcare team about signs of infection, such as redness, pus or foul-smelling drainage, increased swelling or tenderness at the site and increased temperature (fever).
An enucleation or exenteration can affect a person’s appearance. If the person has a conformer, they will see the shell with the hole in the middle. If a conformer wasn’t used, they will see the pink, moist tissue that lines the eye socket.
It can be quite distressing for someone to have their eye removed and see a conformer or an empty eye socket for the first time. It takes time to adjust to a change in appearance and learn how to care for the eye and socket. Some people choose to wear sunglasses until they feel more comfortable with their appearance.
An orbital implant and artificial eye (prosthesis) can lessen the overall affect on appearance. A permanent artificial eye looks similar to the person’s other eye, it just may not move as much. Other people may not readily notice the difference in the 2 eyes.
After the entire eye is removed with enucleation or exenteration, some people may see things that aren’t there (visual hallucinations) or have the sensation that the eye is still there. This is an uncommon and temporary side effect and goes away once the brain realizes the eye is no longer there.
Seeing my sister Erin – a young mother – struggle with the emotional blow and then the physical toll of cancer treatment made me want to do something to help women feel confident.
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