Several different cancers can cause eye tumors. It is important to know the basic symptoms of eye tumors because survival rates for many types of eye cancer are positive if diagnosed and treated early.
Eye tumors can start in or around the eye. The tumor may look like a large growth, a tiny dot, or something in between. Some tumors look like very small changes in the eye, and a person may not notice them if they don’t look closely. Sometimes eye tumors do not always cause symptoms unless the cancer progresses or affects a certain part of the eye. Some eye tumors, including squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, can spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma is particularly dangerous, but all eye cancers warrant early treatment.
Read on to learn the symptoms of the most common eye tumors and what to do if someone notices them.
Symptoms of melanomas
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. Eye melanoma has a high risk of metastasis, which refers to spreading, and this is the case in about 50% of cases. In some cases, metastatic eye tumors are fatal.
Symptoms of Choroidal Melanoma
Choroidal melanoma is the most common type of eye cancer in adults. It affects the tissue that covers the middle layer of the eye.
It can also affect the ciliary body of the eye, which sits below the lens.
Symptoms of choroidal melanoma vary but can include:
retinal detachment if the cancer is growing
a dark growth in the eye that may only be visible as a shadow at the back of the eye
vision changes, such as blurred vision or flashing lights
floaters in the eye, or spots that move across a person’s field of vision
pressure in the eye
pain, but it’s rare.
Sometimes melanoma may not cause symptoms.
As with other types of melanoma, frequent exposure to the sun or tanning beds is a major risk factor.
Symptoms of Conjunctival Melanoma
The conjunctiva is the outer tissue that covers the eye. Conjunctival melanoma is a very rare type of skin cancer.
Conjunctival melanoma can cause the following symptoms:
dark, raised growths in the eye that may look like small moles or freckles
vision changes, such as loss of vision, flashing lights, or blurred vision
a spot on the eye that grows or changes
People with fair skin and blue eyes are more vulnerable to conjunctival and choroidal melanoma.
Symptoms of Retinoblastoma
It is the most common childhood cancer that occurs in the eyeball. Retinoblastoma begins at the back of the eye. About 1 in 3 cases are present at birth. In general, survival rates are very positive, around 95%, with specialized care.
Retinoblastoma begins early in development when retinoblasts, the cells that fill the retina, malfunction and grow out of control. The tumor may be in only one eye in children with the non-hereditary form. It can also develop in both eyes in children with the genetically heritable form.
Symptoms appear early in life or at birth and can include the following:
a pupil that looks white when light shines on it instead of red or pink
white flashes in the eye in photos
a strabismus, or “lazy eye”.
more rarely, eye pain, vision problems, a bulging eye or color differences between the two irises (the colored part) of the eyes.
Symptoms of conjunctival squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell cancer is a type of skin cancer that affects the middle and outer layers of the skin. This is the most common type of cancer affecting the conjunctiva of the eye.
Squamous cell carcinoma growths are often small, making them harder to notice. Here are some symptoms to look for:
red eyes in one eye
the sensation that something is in the eye
a light or white growth on the eye, painless but growing.
Diagnosis of eye tumors
To diagnose an eye tumor, the doctor must rule out other problems that may be causing the symptoms before confirming the presence of a tumor. Often an infection or injury to the eye can cause symptoms similar to those of an eye tumor. The diagnostic process requires multiple examinationsTrusted Source. A doctor will likely do the following:
take a complete medical and family history, and ask about symptoms, when they started, and their severity
examine the eye, probably through pupillary reflex tests, during which the doctor may dilate the eye to look inside and take pictures of the outside or inside of the eye
do blood tests to look for genetic markers of retinoblastoma and rule out other causes of symptoms, such as infections
use imaging scans, such as MRIs, ultrasounds, and CT scans, to examine the back of the eye.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend examining the eye under anesthesia so that a more detailed examination can be performed without causing pain.
The doctor may also be required to perform a biopsy. It also involves numbing the eye with local anesthesia or using general anesthesia to put the person to sleep. The procedure uses a needle to take a small sample of the tumor from the eye, which the doctor sends to a lab. Tumor analysis can reveal the type of cancer the person has and guide treatment.
When to talk to a doctor
It is impossible for a person to self-diagnose or rule out cancer based on their symptoms. Therefore, she should see a doctor if she finds:
eye health problems, such as pain or a change in the eye that does not go away after a few weeks
unusual growths in the eye
changes in the appearance of the eye
new blood vessels in the eye
A diagnosis of cancer can be cause for concern, but many types of eye tumors are very easy to treat, especially if caught early. It is important to see a doctor as soon as possible if there is a change in the eye. This can protect vision and reduce the risk of spreading cancer. Survival rates for retinoblastoma and squamous cell cancer from Trusted Source are very positive. In contrast, melanomas have a lower survival rate and a higher risk of spreading. People can speak with a doctor to discuss treatment options and future prospects.