Ocular Melanoma Definition
Ocular melanoma is an aggressive cancer that affects the eye. This cancer can form in the iris, the ciliary body, and/or the choroid or posterior uvea. Collectively, these three parts of the eye are called the uveal tract, or simply uvea. To better understand the nature of ocular melanoma, it’s a good idea to become familiar with these three structures.
The iris is the pigmented area surrounding the pupil, or the part of the eye that gives it color. The ciliary body is a thin layer of tissue in the eye that produces aqueous humor, which is the clear liquid that fills the space in the front of the eyeball between the cornea and lens. The choroid or posterior uvea is the vascular lawyer of the eye between the sclera (white outer layer of eye) and retina.
Ocular melanoma can form in any of these areas, or in any combination of these areas. Ocular melanoma arises from the pigment cells in the eye that give it its color. People with fair skin that burns easily, or those with red or light colored hair and blue eyes are most at risk of developing this disease.
Ocular Melanoma Stages
Cancer staging is process of determining the nature of the cancer and how much its spread by using a series of exams, tests, and sometimes surgery. The AJCC TNM system is used to stage ocular melanoma. Most of these cancers start in the uvea, but sometimes they can start in other parts of the eye. Cancers that start in other parts of the eye may have their own staging system.
The TNM uses three factors to rate the adenosquamous, and they are as follows:
• T – Tumor – The size of the tumor
• N – Nodes – Whether the cancer has invaded any lymph nodes
• M- Metastasis – Whether the tumor has spread
The information gleaned from the T, N, and M categories is then grouped together to create a “stage grouping” for ocular cancer. The stages are described by numerals. The lowest numeral I represents cancer in its earliest stage, and the numeral IV is the most advanced form of ocular melanoma.
For a more precise understanding of ocular melanoma staging, please review the appropriate section relative to the organ in which it’s located on this website.
Many doctors use another staging system that is considered simpler than the TNM staging system. This system was created by the Collaborative Ocular Melanoma Study, and it divides the tumors into thee size groups.
Ocular Melanoma Symptoms (signs of Ocular Melanoma)
There are specific symptoms that could be an indication of ocular melanoma. These symptoms include:
• A dark, growing spot on the iris
• Having the sensation of flashing lights
• Blurred vision in the affected eye
• A change in the shape of the pupil
• Loss of peripheral vision
• Sensation of “floaters” in the eye
These symptoms may be associated with a variety of other health problems and conditions, so having them does not mean that it’s due to cancer. However, all of these symptoms warrant a visit to the doctor.
Ocular Melanoma Statistics
It is estimated that there will be only 3,500 new cases of eye cancer in 2018, about 60% of which will be men. Most cases of eye cancer are melanoma, and it is estimated that there will be 350 deaths resulting from eye cancer in the coming year.
The 5 year survival rate for cancers is a way of expressing how many patients survive at least 5 years from their time of their initial diagnosis. The 5 year survival rate for ocular melanoma is 80%, and if it’s diagnosed at an early stage it’s 85%. If the melanoma has spread to distant sites in the body, the 5 year survival rate drops to 15%.
Depending on which part of the uveal tract is effected by the cancer will also influence the survival rate. Melanomas that start in the iris have a 95% 5 year survival rate, as they rarely spread. Choroidal melanomas are the most common, and the survival rate is dependent on its size. Small is 84%, medium is 68%, and large is 47%. Ciliary melanoma is rare, which makes the 5 year survival rate difficult to determine. Because it’s usually diagnosed at a late stage, the prognosis is not as good as other forms of the disease.
Causes of Ocular Melanoma
The cause of ocular melanoma is unknown, but certain risk factors that could play a role in developing the disease have been identified. The reason ocular melanoma develops is because errors in the DNA cause certain cells to grow out of control. When enough of these cells accumulate they form a melanoma.
Risk factors associated with the disease include the following:
• Having light colored eyes (blue or green)
• Being white
• Being advanced in age
• Inherited skin disorders like dysplastic nevus syndrome or abnormal skin pigmentation
• Exposure to ultraviolet light
Avoiding risk factors may not be possible, as in the case of advancing age. However, avoiding UV light in tanning beds and direct sunlight could help mitigate that risk.
Ocular Melanoma Screening and Prevention
All eye cancers are uncommon, so there is no recommended screening regimen recognized by doctors to detect the disease before symptoms manifest. It is possible to find eye cancer early, so some doctors may recommend yearly eye exams for people at risk of developing the disease.
Preventing ocular melanoma focuses on early detection and minimizing risk factors associated with the disease. To prevent ocular melanoma, doctors recommend the following:
• Reduce exposure to UV light – This is a good idea for many other reasons, but it’s proven that UV light is harmful to the eyes. Use good sunglasses and a hat that shields the eyes to reduce UV exposure and minimize the risk of developing ocular melanoma.
• Maintain a healthy diet – More than a half million people die from cancer every year in the United States, but more than 30% of those deaths are linked to obesity. Maintaining a healthy diet full of vegetables ensures proper amounts of essential vitamins that are proven to boost the immune system and fight the onset of cancer.
• Exercise regularly – Another way to fight obesity is by getting daily exercise. Physically active people are also more capable of handling common cancer treatments like radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
• Have an annual eye exam – This is recommended for people who are at high risk of developing ocular melanoma.
Ocular Melanoma Treatments
There are a variety of treatments for ocular melanoma. Much depends on the nature of the cancer and whether it’s spread. What follows is a breakdown of the most common treatments prescribed by mainstream medicine.
Observation – Doctors recommend observation if the melanoma is slow growing or small. In cases like this, treatment may cause more discomfort than the disease in people who are older or seriously ill. Patients are monitored closely, and if the cancer starts to grow over a certain size, other treatment may be necessary.
Surgery – Usually surgery for ocular melanoma focuses on the complete removal of the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue. If part of the iris is removed it is called an iridectomy. If part of the iris and the ciliary body is removed it is called an iridocylectomy. If the entire eye is removed it is called an enucleation.
Radiation therapy – This treatment uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer in the eye and surrounding tissue. A beam is focused on the affected area from outside of the body. Proton therapy is another type of radiation therapy that uses proton rays instead of x-rays.
There are a number of side effects associated with radiation treatment including cataracts, neurovascular glaucoma, and loss of eyelashes, among others.
Laser therapy – For this procedure, heat is used to shrink the tumor. It is generated by a laser beam, and has fewer side effects than radiation therapy.
Combinations of these treatments may be prescribed. Before deciding on any treatment, be sure to understand the risks and possible side effects.
Alternative Treatments Used for Ocular Melanoma
If ocular melanoma treatment falls outside of mainstream treatment protocols, it is considered “alternative.” If alternative treatment is used in tandem with mainstream treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, they are considered “complementary” treatments. If treatment not considered mainstream is used as the primary method for recovery, then it’s called “alternative.”
Many alternative treatments for ocular melanoma focus on the body’s natural healing abilities, a key part of which is the immune system. The goal with these alternative therapies is to reinforce the body’s natural defense system so it can effectively fight the ocular melanoma cells.
Boosting the body’s immune system is often accomplished via a highly specialized diet full of healthy food, vitamin supplements, and other alternative therapies that take into account the needs of the individual patient. Alternative treatments may be especially helpful for patients using them in a complementary manner along with traditional treatments, patients who are seeking relief from late stage cancer, or those who are of advanced age.
Some alternative ocular melanoma treatments focus directly on the patient by using tests to assess their unique form of cancer. The doctor will then use this information to develop a highly focused treatment protocol. Because every cancer is unique the individual, the idea is to use a wide variety of tests to see what treatments are most effective at killing their ocular melanoma. This is far different than the one-size-fits-all treatment approach most often employed by mainstream medicine.
As with any medical treatment, ocular melanoma treatment is a highly personal matter that requires careful consideration. Always explore your options in detail so that you can make the best choices regarding ocular melanoma treatment.
Vitamins and Supplements Used in the Treatment of Ocular Melanoma
Alternative treatments for ocular melanoma often utilize vitamin and supplement therapies. Many doctors also recommend a diet rich in vitamins to reduce risk factors associated with various forms of cancer, including ocular melanoma. Some of the more common vitamins used for these purposes are as follows.
• Vitamin B6 – This essential vitamin supports the normal function of the adrenal glands. It also makes antibodies that help the immune system fight disease, which is important in battling cancer.
• Vitamin C – This is another essential vitamin and immune system booster that the body needs. This vitamin helps repair and regenerate tissue in the body, which is an essential process for many on cancer treatment protocols that include chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
• Vitamin D – Your body needs vitamin D to operate normally,and low levels are associated with higher cancer risk. While usually absorbed through the skin by exposure to natural sunlight, some people require vitamin D supplements to maintain adequate levels. If you live in a northern region where winter sunlight is reduced, you won’t get enough sun to provide you with adequate vitamin D. For this reason, you should have your vitamin D levels routinely checked by a doctor and find out if you need a supplement. For people at high risk of ocular melanoma, supplements may help them get enough vitamin D without risking damage from UV radiation.
There are many other supplements and vitamins commonly used during ocular melanoma treatment. Be sure to speak with your doctor before using any supplement or vitamin to make sure it fits within your prescribed treatment protocols.
Natural Remedies that May Help Ocular Melanoma
Not only do those suffering from ocular melanoma often seek natural remedies for prevention and treatment, they also seek ways to counter the adverse of effects of traditional treatments like radiation therapy, surgery, and laser therapy. Even if surgery is successful, ocular melanoma patients may be left with a number of side effects or may even lose their entire eye.
It’s important to recognize that exercise and a healthy diet is its own natural remedy. Cancer treatments can sap away your energy and make it difficult to function and sleep. For the body to combat these side effects of treatment, it needs to be in optimal health, which is made possible by a good diet with plenty of exercise.
Other natural remedies include anything that helps mitigate pain or relieve other symptoms. Increasing your comfort level will help you deal with the side effects associated with treatment, which in turn can help you heal faster.
For more information about ocular melanoma, contact a helpful member of the Causenta team.
“There is no cookie cutter or one-size-fits-all approach at Causenta.”
Watch this 3-minute video to see how different our doctors’ treatment philosophy is.
Learn More about the latest Technologies you can find in Our cancer treatment center.