Uveal melanoma is a type of cancer that grows in the part of the eye that provides the pigment called melanin. Although it’s not a common form of cancer, it is the most common type affecting the eye.
Factors that can make someone at higher risk of developing uveal melanoma include:
- Increasing age
- Fair skin complexion
- Having blue or light green eyes
Symptoms of uveal melanoma can vary for each person, but some common symptoms can include:
- Blurry vision
- Other visual changes
- Spots in the vision, called floaters
- Change in the size or shape of the pupil
- Dark spot on the eye
When uveal melanoma is suspected, a thorough eye examination will need to be done to help determine the cause of the symptoms. During an eye exam, specialized tests can be done to evaluate the eye and its structures to look for abnormalities. This cancer is often diagnosed without a biopsy, as sometimes a biopsy can be risky. However, a biopsy may be recommended. The stage or extent of cancer needs to be determined as well to help determine the exact treatment that will be best.
Imaging tests used to help determine the extent of melanoma can include CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans. Blood tests to evaluate blood cell counts, as well as kidney and liver function, is often done as well.
The exact treatment for uveal melanoma will be determined once the diagnosis is made and the cancer stage is known.
Surgery may be recommended for uveal melanoma. This surgery can include removing the tumor and healthy tissue surrounding it or removing the entire eye.
Radiation therapy is a treatment that may be used as well. During radiation, high-energy beams are directed at the cancer cells to kill them. Sometimes small radiation plaques are implanted directly into the tumor to kill it.
For some, a type of treatment called watchful waiting is used. During this, no specific treatment is given. Exams are performed regularly to assess the melanoma and determine how quickly it is growing. It may not need treatment unless it grows to a certain size or is causing more significant visual problems.
If you’ve been diagnosed with uveal melanoma, be sure to talk to your cancer team about the specifics of your cancer. They can help you understand your diagnosis and how best to treat it.