It is virtually impossible to prevent
Eye Cancers with current technology


What are Eye Cancers?

Eye cancers are tumorous growths found in the ocular region of the head. The threat of Eye Cancer is one that has grown over the past couple of years, in part due to their tendancy to spread to other parts of the body relatively quickly when compared to other diseases. There are three primary types of Eye Cancers that we will be covering, all of which are important to recognize in order to understand the conditions that Eye Cancer patients live with everyday. These are: Intraocular Melanomas, Intraocular Lymphomas, and Retinoblastomas. The specifics of each type will be discussed thouroughly down below.

Eye Cancers are relatively uncommon on a global scale, occuring in just 5 to 7.5 people out of every million people in the United States and Europe. The reach of the disease technically extends to everyone, but Eye Cancers are far more prominent in males over the age of 55. Although the rare nature of the disease is certainly a positive thing, it does little to make the experience of suffering from Eye Cancer more pleasant for those who already have it.

We will now delve into the specifics of each form of Eye Cancer. The graph below reveals the percentage of occurance in relation to each respective subset of Eye Cancer. As you can see, Melanomas are far more common than Lymphomas, and Retinoblastomas are an even rarer form, limiting itself just to children.

Retinoblastomas Intraocular Melanomas Intraocular Lymphoma


Retinoblastomas are a form of Eye Cancer that is found exclusively in children under the age of 5. Although Retinoblastomas are by no means common, their influence demands attention. They are usually contracted as a result of a mutation in a gene referred to in the scientific community as the RB gene.

In order to understand Retinoblastoma, we must first discuss what it actually is. A brief overview of eye functions and anatomy reveals that the retina is the part of the eye that takes in light from the world around us, transforming this light into electrical impulses that that brain can decode through a process called transduction. Therefore, Retinoblastomas can be thought of as cancer of the retina.

When a baby is growing in the womb, the eyes are one of the first things to develop. In these very early stages the eyes have cells called Retinoblasts that grow very quickly. When they stop growing, they develop into mature retinal cells that can detect and process light. However, in very rare cases the immature Retinoblasts continue to grow very fast and do not turn into mature retinal cells. Instead they grow out of control and develop into cancerous tumors known as Retinoblastomas

It is of the utmost importance to find this cancer during the pre-natal stage of growth in order to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body after birth. Symptoms of the cancer can sometimes become very agressive, involving the constant dilation of the pupils, blood vessel rupture, and complete loss of eyesight. These symptoms typically occur in one eye, but since Retinoblastomas are inheritable, it could occur in both eyes as a result of genetic mutation.

Intraocular Melanomas

Before we can properly dicuss Intraocular Melanomas and the impact that they have on people, it's important to first understand exactly what Melanoma is. In short, Melanoma is caused when malignant cells rapidly grow from melanin, a pigment in the skin which is responsible for tanning. This explains why there are health restrictions on tanning beds, and why you use sunscream when you go to the beach. Although Melanoma is usually on our side, it can sometimes start growing rapidly in the eye, thus resulting in Intraocular Melanoma.

Intraocular Melanoma is by far the most common form of Eye Cancer, accounting for over 90% of all Eye Cancers. One of the most important factors in ensuring that Intraocular Melanomas do not become life threatening is achieving early detection and treatment. This is because Eye Cancers have a tendancy to spread to other parts of the body, something which makes the disease much more difficult to treat effectively.

The symptoms of Intraocular Melanomas can be devestating if left unchecked. They include: blurred vision, dark spots on the iris, a change in the shape of the pupil, and even a permanent change in position of the eye in the eye socket.

Intraocular Lymphomas

Like Intraocular Melanomas, Intraocular Lymphomas involve a broader type of cancer: Lymphoma. The difference between Intraocular Lymphoma and standard Lymphoma is based on location, as Intraocular Lymphomas occur in the ocular region of the head. Lymphoma is defined as the uninhibited growth of lypmph nodes. Lypmph nodes regulate important parts of the immune system, and are typically only visible when swollen. Such swelling can indicate major problems in whatever region of the body it occurs in. In this case, the swelling occurs in the ocular region.

Intraocular Melanomas, while still dangerous, only account for around 7% of all Eye Cancer cases in the world - a very small number when compared to Intraocular Melanoma. The diagnosis of Intraocular Lymphoma is typically made by removing cells from the eye and evaluating it from there. Once the diagnosis is certain, a specialized doctor is dispached to perform an evaluation on how the patient should proceed.

Thankfully, the symptoms of Intraocular Lymphoma are often quite distinguishable, something which makes early detection more likely. Noticing and alerting a doctor of these symptoms is an essentail step in terms of ensuring a high chance of survival. These symptoms share much in common with the other 2 primary types of Eye Cancer, and can include things like blurred vision and an altered pupil shape. Some of the more unique symptoms are Lymphoma-specific, such as swelling of the face as a reaction to the mass growth of lypmph nodes.

Advancements in Treatment

The tremendous strides made in technology and knowledge alike have enabled doctors to treat diseases such as Eye Cancer effectively and quickly, allowing for higher survival rates than ever before. This fact is reflected in the graph below - we have seen an increase in 5-year survival rates from 76% to 89% over the past few decades.

Percentage of 5-Year Survival Rates

Why the Increase?

This significant increase in survival rates can be attributed to the relentless march of modern science and medicine, something which has allowed for more effective methods of treatment that make Eye Cancers early to deal with. Below are some explanations of the specific advancements that have led to such a decline in mortality rates, along with a description of the medical staff that facilitate such advancements.

Medical Staff

The very first thing that is done when someone is diagnosed with Eye Cancer is the development of a medical team that is specifically suited for that particular individual's cancer. These doctors include people who specialize in treating diseases of the eye (called Ophthalmologists), people who treat cancer with radiation therapy (called Radiation Oncologists), and people who treat cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy (Medical Oncologists).

Once a medical team is established, these doctors begin working together to develop a treatment plan that is responsive to the needs of the patient. Depending on the stage of the cancer and other factors, treatment options for Eye Cancer can include: Surgery, radiation therapy, laser therapy, chemotherapy, and certain types of targeted therapies. It is not uncommon for more than one type of treatment to be used.

In order to determine what treatment plan is best for the patient in question, doctors consider a wide range of factors. These include things such as the location and stage of the cancer, the patient's general health, the chances of curing the disease, and the possible impact of the treatment on vision.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy makes use of high energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. It is a common treatment for many forms of Eye Cancer, but is used most commonly to treat Intraocular Melanoma. While radiation can often preserve some vision in the eye, this sometimes may be lost anyway if the radiation damages vital structures near the infected point. One advantage over surgery that this treatment holds is the preservation of the eye structure, something which may result in a better appearance after treatment.

One of the most exciting developments in Eye Cancer research in recent years has been the refinement of external beam radiation therapy. This treatment focuses proton beams on the cancer. Protons are the positive parts of ataoms. Unlike x-rays, which release energy both before and after they hit their target, protons cause little damage to tissue as they pass through and then release their energy after traveling a certain distance.

While current applications of this technology are limited, the hope is that this treatment will allow more radiation to be delivered to the tumor while doing less damage to healthy tissue. This would mark a huge advancement over previous forms of treatment due to a more perfect balance of effectiveness and comfort.

Ocular Surgery

Although its application has been limited in recent years in favor of radiation therapy, surgery is sometimes used to treat certain forms of Eye cancers. The exception to this is Intraocular Lymphomas, where surgery is not an option due to the fact that the disease has almost certainly spread beyond the point of origin before such options are explored.

Recent advancements have made it possible to replace the eyeball with orbital implants. The implant is usually made out of silicone or a substance similar to bone. It is attached to the muscles that previously were responsible for moving the eye, something that it will move in a similar manner as the eye would have.

A few weeks after the surgery, the patient is then sent to visit an Ocularist to be fitted with an artificial eye. This artificial eye is a thin shell that fits over the orbital implant and underneath the eyelids. The artificial eye typically matches the size and color of the remaining eye, thus making it difficult to tell apart from a real eye. Advancements such as these allow patients to live more normal lives after surgery, and ensure that the lingering damage of the cancer is minimized.

How to Help

While progress certainly has been made in recent years, Eye Cancer remains an underresearched form of cancer that lacks public awareness. Fortunately, all of the organizations detailed below seek to right this wrong through the means of ensuring that Eye Cancer is allocated the research necessary to make the issue one of the past.

The Eye Tumor Research Foundation

The Eye Tumor Research Foundation is an organization that has selflessly dedicated itself to the research of Eye Cancers in order to win the fight for life and sight. The ultimate goal of the foundation is to make current treatment programs for patients more comfortable and effective through the means of further developing current methods of diagnosis and treatment.

All contributions made to the foundation are spent in adherence to one fundamental goal: providing meaningful support to those who are actively involved in the research of Eye Cancers. Your generous donations are a necessity to ensure that they continue to make steps towards this goal.

The foundation was created with the valuable assistance of patients and their loved ones who were grateful for the support of research in the field of Eye Cancer. They are a legally-operating nonprofit organization, something which ensures that all funds donated to them will be allocated in a manner that is both responsible and consistent with the needs of those who suffer from Eye Cancer.


The Eye Cancer Foundation

Established in 1989 as The Eyecare Foundation, The Eye Cancer Foundation has long since been a valuable resource for Eye Cancer patients and their families. Their mission is two-fold: to directly assist the research of new diagnostic treatments for Eye Cancer and to provide much needed patient support services.

They have historically been responsible for providing a foundation upon which rapidly developing technological and informational capabilities can best serve patients and their families. They aspire to motivate patients and aspire them to triumph over their disease through the means of easing mental and emotional burdens placed on them. You can click the button below to be directed to their website to make a simple donation that will undoubtedly move the fight against cancer one step ahead.


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