What happens after treatment for eye cancer?
For many people with eye cancer, treatment may remove or destroy the cancer. Completing treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, but find it hard not to worry about cancer growing or coming back. (When cancer comes back after treatment, it is called a recurrence.) This is a very common concern in people who have had cancer.
It may take a while before your fears lessen. But it may help to know that many cancer survivors have learned to live with this uncertainty and are leading full lives. Our document Living With Uncertainty: The Fear of Cancer Recurrence, gives more detailed information on this.
For other people, the eye cancer may never go away completely. These people may get regular treatments with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other therapies to help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer as a more of a chronic disease can be difficult and very stressful. It has its own type of uncertainty. Our document When Cancer Doesn’t Go Away talks more about this.
If you have completed treatment, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It is very important to keep all follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask about symptoms, do physical exams, and may order blood tests or imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans.
Follow-up is needed to check for cancer recurrence or spread, as well as possible side effects of certain treatments. This is the time for you to ask your health care team any questions you need answered and to discuss any concerns you might have.
Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks to several months, but others can last the rest of your life. Don't hesitate to tell your cancer care team about any symptoms or side effects that bother you so they can help you manage them.
Follow-up after treatment of uveal (eye) melanoma
Following treatment, your doctor will most likely want to see you fairly often (every couple of months or so) at first. The time between visits may be extended if there are no problems.
During these doctor visits, physical exams (including careful eye exams if the eye has not been removed) are done to look for tumor recurrence or side effects of treatment as early as possible. Blood tests might be done to look for possible signs of spread to the liver. Imaging tests such as chest x-rays, ultrasound, CT scans, or MRI scans may also be done to watch for recurrence or metastasis. Most recurrences can be treated more effectively if they are found early. The liver and lungs are the most common sites of distant recurrence of melanoma of the eye.
If cancer does recur at some point, further treatment will depend on the location of the cancer, what treatments you’ve had before, and your health. For more information on how recurrent cancer is treated, see the section “Treating uveal (eye) melanoma by location and size” For more general information on dealing with a recurrence, you may also want to see our document When Your Cancer Comes Back: Cancer Recurrence.
Treatments for eye cancers such as surgery, radiation therapy, and laser therapy can cause some side effects. Your doctors will check your treated eye for complications and may recommend medicines or operations to help control side effects and help to keep your vision as clear as possible. For example, radiation therapy may cause cataracts to form or injure muscles around the eye, resulting in blurred or double vision. In either case, surgery may be able to help with these problems.
Follow-up exams and tests are also important for people who have had an eye removed, because melanomas can still sometimes recur in the area around the eye or in distant parts of the body.
Follow-up after treatment of eye lymphoma
Physical exams are usually done about every 3 months for the first few years after treatment. Other tests may include lumbar punctures (spinal taps) to look for lymphoma cells in the cerebrospinal fluid and MRI scans of the brain to look for recurrence or metastasis.
Seeing a new doctor
At some point after your cancer diagnosis and treatment, you may find yourself seeing a new doctor who does not know about your medical history. It is important that you be able to give your new doctor the details of your diagnosis and treatment. Gathering these details soon after treatment may be easier than trying to get them at some point in the future. Make sure you have this information handy:
- A copy of your pathology report(s) from any biopsies or surgeries
- Copies of imaging tests (CT or MRI scans, etc.), which can usually be stored digitally on a DVD, etc.
- If you had surgery, a copy of your operative report(s)
- If you stayed in the hospital, a copy of the discharge summary that doctors prepare when patients are sent home
- If you had radiation therapy, a summary of the type and dose of radiation and when and where it was given
- If you had chemotherapy or other medicines, a list of the drugs, drug doses, and when you took them
It is also important to keep health insurance. Tests and doctor visits cost a lot, and even though no one wants to think of their cancer coming back, this could happen.
Last Medical Review: 09/13/2013
Last Revised: 02/11/2014