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Intraocular (Uveal) Melanoma Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - General Information About Intraocular (Uveal) Melanoma

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Intraocular melanoma is a rare cancer that forms from cells that make melanin in the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. It is the most common eye cancer in adults.

Being older and having fair skin may increase the risk of intraocular melanoma.

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk.

Risk factors for intraocular melanoma include the following:

  • Having a fair complexion, which includes the following:
    • Fair skin that freckles and burns easily, does not tan, or tans poorly.
    • Blue or green or other light-colored eyes.
  • Older age.
  • Being white.

Possible signs of intraocular melanoma include blurred vision or a dark spot on the iris.

Intraocular melanoma may not cause any early symptoms. It is sometimes found during a regular eye exam when the doctor dilates the pupil and looks into the eye. The following symptoms may be caused by intraocular melanoma or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following problems:

  • Blurred vision or other change in vision.
  • Floaters (spots that drift in your field of vision) or flashes of light.
  • A dark spot on the iris.
  • A change in the size or shape of the pupil.
  • A change in the position of the eyeball in the eye socket.

Tests that examine the eye are used to help detect (find) and diagnose intraocular melanoma.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient's health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Eye exam with dilated pupil: An exam of the eye in which the pupil is dilated (enlarged) with medicated eye drops to allow the doctor to look through the lens and pupil to the retina. The inside of the eye, including the retina and the optic nerve, is checked. Pictures may be taken over time to keep track of changes in the size of the tumor. There are several types of eye exams:
    • Ophthalmoscopy: An exam of the inside of the back of the eye to check the retina and optic nerve using a small magnifying lens and a light.
    • Slit-lamp biomicroscopy: An exam of the inside of the eye to check the retina, optic nerve, and other parts of the eye using a strong beam of light and a microscope.
    • Gonioscopy: An exam of the front part of the eye between the cornea and iris. A special instrument is used to see if the area where fluid drains out of the eye is blocked.
  • Ultrasound exam of the eye: A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off the internal tissues of the eye to make echoes. Eye drops are used to numb the eye and a small probe that sends and receives sound waves is placed gently on the surface of the eye. The echoes make a picture of the inside of the eye and the distance from the cornea to the retina is measured. The picture, called a sonogram, shows on the screen of the ultrasound monitor.
  • High-resolution ultrasound biomicroscopy: A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off the internal tissues of the eye to make echoes. Eye drops are used to numb the eye and a small probe that sends and receives sound waves is placed gently on the surface of the eye. The echoes make a more detailed picture of the inside of the eye than a regular ultrasound. The tumor is checked for its size, shape, and thickness, and for signs that the tumor has spread to nearby tissue.
  • Transillumination of the globe and iris: An exam of the iris, cornea, lens, and ciliary body with a light placed on either the upper or lower lid.
  • Fluorescein angiography: A procedure to look at blood vessels and the flow of blood inside the eye. An orange fluorescent dye (fluorescein) is injected into a blood vessel in the arm and goes into the bloodstream. As the dye travels through blood vessels of the eye, a special camera takes pictures of the retina and choroid to find any areas that are blocked or leaking.
  • Indocyanine green angiography: A procedure to look at blood vessels in the choroid layer of the eye. A green dye (indocyanine green) is injected into a blood vessel in the arm and goes into the bloodstream. As the dye travels through blood vessels of the eye, a special camera takes pictures of the retina and choroid to find any areas that are blocked or leaking.
  • Ocular coherence tomography: An imaging test that uses light waves to take cross-section pictures of the retina, and sometimes the choroid, to see if there is swelling or fluid beneath the retina.
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