Can Eye Cancer Be Found Early?

Eye cancer is uncommon, and there are no widely recommended screening tests for this cancer in people at average risk. (Screening is testing for a disease like cancer in people without any symptoms.) Still, some eye cancers can be found early.

Some doctors may recommend yearly eye exams for those at higher risk of eye melanoma, such as people with dysplastic nevus syndrome. Regular eye exams are an important part of everyone’s health care, even if they have no symptoms. Often melanomas of the eye are found during a routine eye exam. When the doctor looks through the pupil at the back of the eye, he or she may see a dark spot that might be an early melanoma.

Many doctors feel that most melanomas start from a nevus (mole), which is a benign (non-cancerous) tumor of pigment cells. If an eye nevus is present, it should be looked at regularly by an ophthalmologist (a doctor who specializes in eye diseases). People who notice a dark spot on the colored part of their eye (the iris) should have a doctor look at it, especially if it is getting bigger.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: December 9, 2014 Last Revised: February 5, 2016

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