Eye Cancer (Melanoma and Lymphoma)

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Eye cancer survival rates

Survival rates are often used by doctors as a standard way of discussing a person’s prognosis (outlook). Some patients with cancer may want to know the survival statistics for people in similar situations, while others may not find the numbers helpful or may even not want to know them. If you don’t want to know them, stop reading here and skip to the next section.

The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed. Of course, many people live much longer than 5 years (and many are cured).

In order to get 5-year survival rates, doctors have to look at people who were treated at least 5 years ago. Improvements in treatment since then may result in a better outlook for people now being diagnosed with this cancer. Five-year relative survival rates, such as the numbers below for eye melanoma, assume that some people will die of other causes and compare the observed survival with that expected for people without the cancer. This is a more accurate way to describe the outlook for patients with a particular type and stage of cancer.

Survival rates are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had the disease, but they cannot predict what will happen in any person’s case. Other factors can also affect a person’s outlook, such as the type of cells in the tumor, as well as the patient’s age and general health. Your doctor can tell you how the numbers below may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your particular situation.

Survival rates for eye melanoma

The numbers below come from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, and are based on about 1,500 patients who were diagnosed with melanoma of the eye between 1988 and 2001.

Overall, about 3 out of 4 people with eye melanoma survive for at least 5 years. Survival rates tend to be better for earlier than for later-stage cancers, but accurate survival rates for eye melanomas based on a specific stage are hard to determine because these cancers are fairly rare.

In patients whose cancer is confined to the eye, the 5-year relative survival rate is about 80%. This is in stark contrast to melanomas that have spread to distant parts of the body, where the 5-year relative survival rate is about 15%.

Survival rates for lymphoma of the eye

Because eye lymphoma is rare, accurate survival statistics for this cancer are hard to find. In one study of patients without HIV whose lymphoma was confined to the eye, about half of the patients were still alive 5 years after diagnosis. Unfortunately, in many cases the lymphoma has already reached the brain at the time of diagnosis, in which case the outlook is not as good.


Last Medical Review: 09/13/2013
Last Revised: 02/11/2014