Eye Cancer: Ocular Melanoma

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man user

EyeQue Team

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May 23, 2021


What Is Ocular Melanoma?

Eye examOcular melanoma is the most common eye cancer found in adults, but it is a very rare condition – approximately 2,500 Americans are diagnosed with this disease every year.

Ocular melanoma develops in the pigment cells (the cells that give your eyes their color) in the third layer of the eye called the uvea. It can also occur in the conjunctiva, but that is even rarer.

It can be difficult to detect ocular melanoma on your own because the cancer forms in parts of the eye that you can’t see when you look in a mirror. It is one of the reasons that routine eye care is so important.

Symptoms of Ocular Melanoma

Because of where the melanoma typically forms, you will likely not have any symptoms until the cancer reaches a more advanced state. The most common symptoms include:

  • A darker spot in the iris or on the conjunctiva
  • Distorted vision or developing a blind spot
  • Seeing flashing lights
  • A pupil that changes shape or size

Treatment for Ocular Melanoma

There are five main treatments for ocular melanoma, including:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Laser treatment
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Cryotherapy
  • Surgery


Using high-powered energy, radiation therapy targets and kills cancer cells. This type of therapy is most often used on smaller to medium-sized tumors.

Laser Treatment

 Laser treatment is sometimes used in combination with radiation. It uses a laser to target and kill cancer cells. For example, thermotherapy uses an infrared laser which is applied directly to the tumor.

Photodynamic Therapy

The process of combining medication with wavelengths of light is called photodynamic therapy, and it is sometimes used to treat ocular melanoma. This treatment is only effective on small tumors.


Cryotherapy is the practice of using extreme cold to destroy cancer cells. This treatment may be used against smaller melanomas, but it isn’t a very common treatment.


Depending on the size and the location of the tumor, surgery may be used to treat ocular melanoma. Some tumors may only require a portion of the eye to be removed, but larger melanomas may result in the entire eye being removed.

Even if you don’t wear glasses or contacts, it’s extremely important to have regular exams with your eye doctor. During these exams, doctors will screen for multiple eye diseases that you would not be able to detect on your own.

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