Eye Cancer (Melanoma and Lymphoma)

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Treating Eye Cancer TOPICS

How is eye cancer treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don’t hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

Making treatment decisions

After an eye cancer is found and staged, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. Depending on the type and stage of the cancer and other factors, treatment options for eye cancer can include:

Sometimes, more than one of type of treatment might be used. In choosing which treatment plan is best for you, some important factors to consider include the location and stage of the cancer, your overall health, the chances of curing the disease, and the possible impact of the treatment on vision.

You may have different types of doctors on your treatment team, depending on the stage of your cancer and your treatment options. These doctors may include:

  • An ophthalmologist: a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the eye
  • An ocular oncologist: a doctor (usually an ophthalmologist) who specializes in treating cancers of the eye
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy

Many other specialists may be involved in your care as well, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, physical therapists, social workers, and other health professionals.

It is important to discuss all of your treatment options as well as their possible side effects with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. (See the section “What should you ask your doctor about eye cancer?” for some questions to ask.)

Because eye melanomas and lymphomas are rare, no matter what treatment you decide on, it should be done by doctors who are experienced in treating people with these cancers. If time permits it is often a good idea to seek a second opinion from an experienced doctor as well. A second opinion can provide more information and help you feel more confident about the treatment plan that is chosen.

Treatments for eye cancers might interfere with or cause complete loss of vision. Doctors try to preserve vision whenever possible, but this may not always be the best choice. Eye cancers can often be fatal if left untreated, and some patients must be given treatment regardless of the possible damage to the eye. On the other hand, some eye melanomas are small, grow very slowly (if at all), and can be watched carefully without treatment. This is why it is important to get the opinion of a skilled specialist in this field before deciding on treatment.

The next few sections describe the types of treatments used for eye melanomas and lymphomas. This is followed by a description of the most common approaches to treating melanomas and lymphomas, based on the situation.

See the “Additional resources for eye cancer” section for other materials on the different types of cancer treatments and their side effects.

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