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Eye Cancer: Types, Symptoms and the Treatments

As per NHS, around 850 eyes (ocular cancer) cases are reported annually in the UK.  

Eye cancer: Types, symptoms and the Treatments

Eye cancer is a general term describing many types of tumours that can start in various parts of the eye. It occurs when healthy cells in or around the eye change and grow uncontrollably, forming a tumorous mass, a tumour can be benign or cancerous. A benign tumour means the tumour can grow but will not spread. A malignant cancerous tumour can grow and spread to other body parts. Cancer that forms in the eyeball is called an intraocular (inside the eye) malignancy.

Types of Eye Cancer:

Eye cancer is cancer that starts in the eye. Cancers affecting the inside of the eye are intraocular. Cancer that begins in the eye is called primary eye cancer. This information is about primary eye cancer.

Eye Melanoma:

Eye melanomas are rare. They develop in cells that produce melanin, a pigment that gives your skin its colour. Most eye melanomas form in the part of your eye you can't see, so it can be challenging to detect them. Eye melanomas don't affect your vision or cause early signs or symptoms.

Eye melanoma treatment may not interfere with your vision if you have a small tumour. However, treatment for larger tumours typically causes some vision loss.

Eye Lymphoma:

Eye lymphoma is a rare type of cancer that affects the immune system. It's also known as ocular lymphoma, and it can be hard to diagnose since it shares similar symptoms with other eye conditions like uveitis. In most cases, eye lymphoma is non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Eye lymphomas can affect anyone, but they are more common in people with weakened immune systems or who take immunosuppressive medications. If you notice any changes to your vision or the appearance of your eyes, see your optician for further evaluation. Your optician can refer you to specialists if they suspect eye cancer.

Rare Eye Cancers in children:

Rare Eye Cancer in Childern: I-DEW Eye Drops

There are mainly two types of cancers:


Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer that can affect young children. Retinoblastoma affects one or both eyes, most cases occurring before a child is one year old. If it happens in only one eye, it tends to be diagnosed later (between the ages of two and three). It can be successfully treated if detected early and treated correctly.

See an optometrist or ophthalmologist if you have concerns about your child's vision development or eye health.


Medulloepithelioma is a rare type of eye cancer that can develop in young children under the age of 10 years. It usually develops in the ciliary body and is generally slow growing. It doesn’t tend to spread, so the common treatment is surgery to remove cancer.

Your child might have to have their eye removed. This operation will take some time to get used to, but you and your child will be supported by our specialists throughout.

Some adults have been diagnosed with this, but this could be due to slow-growing cancer that developed at a young age but was not detected until later.

Symptoms of Eye Cancer:

Eye cancer is a severe condition that can affect your vision, so knowing how to spot the symptoms is essential.

Eye cancer doesn't always cause noticeable symptoms and may only be picked up during a routine eye test. But there are some signs you should look out for:

  • Shadows, flashes of light, or wiggly lines in your vision
  • Blurred vision
  • The dark patch in your eye that's getting bigger
  • Partial or total loss of vision, bulging of 1 eye
  • A lump on your eyelid or in your eye that's increasing in size
  • Eye irritation that is not going away
  • Pain in or around your eye, although this is rare.

More minor eye conditions can also cause these symptoms, so they're not necessarily a sign of cancer. But it's essential to get the symptoms checked by a doctor as soon as possible.

Melanoma of the Eye:

Melanoma of the eye is a rare condition that occurs when cancerous cells form in the melanocytes of your eye. It can affect the eyeball, the uvea (the middle layer of your eye), or the conjunctiva (the thin layer that lines the front of your eye).

Most melanomas develop in the skin, but can also develop in other body parts. Eye melanoma most commonly affects the eyeball, uvea, or conjunctiva.

What causes Eye Melanoma:

Eye Melanoma is a condition that occurs when the pigment-producing cells in your eyes divide and multiply too rapidly. This produces a lump of tissue known as a tumour.

It's not clear exactly why this happens, but some factors may increase your risk of developing eye melanoma:

Lighter eye colour –

If you have blue, grey or green eyes, you have a higher risk of developing eye melanoma compared to people who have brown eyes.

White or pale skin–

Eye cancer mainly affects white people and is more common in those with fair skin.

Unusual moles –

If you have irregularly shaped or unusually coloured moles, you're more at risk of developing melanoma skin cancer and eye melanoma.

Use of sunbeds -

There's some evidence to suggest that exposure to sunbeds' ultraviolet (UV) radiation, for example, can increase your risk of eye melanoma.

Overexposure to sunlight increases your risk of skin cancer and may also be a risk factor for eye melanoma. The risk of developing eye melanoma also increases with age; most cases are diagnosed in people aged 50 plus.

Treatments for Eye Melanoma:

Treatment for melanoma of the eye depends on the size and location of the tumour. Treatment will aim to conserve the affected eye whenever possible. Your care team will explain each treatment option in detail, including the benefits and any potential complications.

The main treatments for eye melanoma are:


Tiny plates lined with a radioactive material called plaques are inserted near the tumour and left in place for up to a week to kill the cancerous cells.

External radiotherapy

A machine carefully aims radiation beams at the tumour to kill the cancerous cells.


To remove the tumour or part of the eye may be possible if the tumour is small, and you still have some vision in your eye.

Removal of the eye (enucleation)-

May be necessary if the tumour is extensive, or you have lost your vision; the eye will eventually be replaced with an artificial eye that matches your other eye.

The Takeaway:

You may be feeling anxious between appointments, and that's perfectly normal. It can help to get support from family, friends, or a support organisation.

If you're feeling particularly anxious, you should talk to someone with the same condition as yours. Your doctor can put you in touch with someone who has been through what you are experiencing.


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