What Is Uveal Melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of cancer that develops in the cells that produce melanin. Your eyes have melanin-producing cells and can develop melanoma. Eye melanoma is also called ocular melanoma. Ocular melanoma is the most common primary cancer of the eye in adults.
Most eye melanomas form in the part of the eye you can’t see when looking in a mirror. This makes eye melanoma difficult to detect. In addition, eye melanoma typically doesn’t cause early signs or symptoms.
Is Uveal Melanoma Serious?
Approximately 50% of patients with ocular melanoma will develop metastases by 10 to 15 years after diagnosis (a small percentage of people will develop metastases even later i.e. 20-25 years after their initial diagnosis). Metastatic disease is universally fatal. This 50% mortality rate is unchanged despite treatment advances in treating the primary eye tumor. More research is needed urgently to improve patient outcomes.
What Are the Symptoms of Uveal Melanoma?
Uveal melanoma can manifest in many ways, but most people find out they have a tumor when they have blurring or perhaps a slight soreness in one of their eyes and go to see their eye doctor. They may even see an optometrist because things just aren’t right. Regardless, it’s important that you regularly see an eye doctor so that if you do have uveal melanoma or any other ocular disease, it can be caught and treated early.
Symptoms of a primary ocular melanoma tumor can include blurred vision, flashing lights, shadows and changes to the lens of the eye (cataract). Often times, though, no symptoms are present and ocular melanoma is diagnosed during a routine eye examination. This emphasizes how important it is to regularly see an eye doctor so that if you do have uveal melanoma or any other ocular disease, it can be caught and treated early.
What Is the Treatment for Uveal Melanoma?
The treatment of the primary tumor has evolved quite dramatically over the past years. The treatment of metastatic disease continues to require more research to determine what the most effective, and life-saving, treatments may be.
The course of treatment for the primary disease depends upon a number of factors, chief among them the size of the tumor. If your tumor is small enough, it may not require immediate treatment and you and your ophthalmologist may decide to watch the melanoma closely to see if it grows. If it does, or if it begins to cause complications, you may decide to undergo treatment at some point in the future.
If you do decide to go ahead with treatment, it is important to discuss all your options with a specialist experienced in treating ocular tumors