Eye cancer can be serious because it can spread to other parts of your body.
There are various types of eye cancer, but they are all pretty rare.
The American Cancer Society estimates there will be
In this article, we explore how likely it is for eye cancer to spread, how quickly it can spread, which organs it affects, and signs and symptoms of metastasis. We also discuss treatment, diagnosis, and outlook.
Eye cancer can spread to other parts of the body, but not always. The risk of eye cancer, specifically intraocular melanoma, spreading varies greatly.
According to a 2020 research review, up to 50% of intraocular melanomas may spread. Your risk may vary depending on where the tumor originates.
For example, according to the review, if the cancer begins in the iris, the chance it spreads is around 7%. But if it starts from the ciliary body (the middle wall of the eye), the risk is 33%.
Eye cancer tends to metastasize to the liver, but it also depends on the type of eye cancer.
For example, the
How quickly eye cancer spreads varies widely depending on many factors, like the type of cancer, your overall health, and how early you get a diagnosis.
Age is another important factor. Studies have demonstrated that intraocular melanoma survival rates decrease with age at the time of diagnosis. Like other cancers, the earlier you begin treatment, the better your chances of recovery.
For example, uveal melanomas can start in the:
- colored iris
- circular ciliary body behind the iris
- choroid layer beneath the retina
Melanomas that start from the iris are visible and very slow to grow. This makes them very easy to detect and treat. Other uveal melanomas can be more aggressive and spread.
Conjunctival melanomas start in the moist tissue layer that covers the eyeball. They are relatively rare yet aggressive since they have direct access to the lymphatic system.
Another problem with estimating how fast eye cancer spreads is that research indicates the growth rate depends on the tumor size.
According to a
This means that while it may take years for its cells to get to another organ, those cells tend to grow and multiply fast, increasing the risk of death.
Signs and symptoms of eye cancer
- changes in your vision, such as blurry vision or sudden loss of sight
- floaters, which are spots or squiggles that appear to float in your field of view, or flashes of light
- change in the size or shape of your pupil, which is the dark center of your eye
- a dark spot growing on the iris, which is the colored part of your eye
- change in the position of your eyeball within its socket
- bulging of the eye
- changes in the way your eye moves
If eye cancer spreads, these symptoms may become more noticeable. You may also experience pain in other parts of your body where the cancer has spread.
- If eye cancer spreads to the liver, you may have a loss of appetite, nausea, and swelling of the abdomen or knees.
- If eye cancer spreads to the lungs, you may have a cough that does not go away and chest infections. You may cough up blood.
- Symptoms of brain metastasis include seizures, memory problems, and changes in your personality.
While these symptoms could indicate that eye cancer has spread, they can also result from less serious, noncancerous conditions.
It’s crucial to speak with a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms so you can get treatment if necessary.
Remember, some people with eye cancer do not have any symptoms unless the cancer grows.
Keeping up with regular health screenings and attending all your medical appointments can help detect, diagnose, and treat any issues early.
Your medical team may use a staging system, such as the TNM system, to assess whether cancer has moved beyond the eyes. TNM stands for tumor, node, and metastasis:
- Tumor (T) describes the size of the original tumor and whether it has moved into nearby eye structures.
- Node (N) refers to whether the cancer has spread to lymph nodes.
- Metastasis (M) considers whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Your doctor may use
If your eye cancer has spread, the treatment approach will be a bit different. Your treatment may
The outlook, or prognosis, for people with eye cancer that has spread varies. It largely depends on where the cancer spreads.
When eye cancer metastasizes, it most commonly spreads to the liver. When this happens, people may survive for
It’s possible for eye cancer to metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body. Its speed and growth can depend on the type and original location of the tumor.
Getting regular eye exams and telling your doctor about any symptoms is crucial to detect eye cancer early. The earlier eye cancer is treated, the better chances of a good outcome.