Treating Eye Cancer

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 is used. In choosing the best treatment plan 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 effect of the treatment on vision. See “Treating uveal (eye) melanoma by location and stage” or “Treating intraocular (eye) lymphoma” to learn about common treatment plans.

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 might be part of your treatment team as well, including physician assistants (PAs), nurse practitioners (NPs), nurses, physical therapists, social workers, and other health professionals. See Health Professionals Associated With Cancer Care for more on this.

It is important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. It’s also very important to ask questions if you’re not sure about something. (See “ 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 your chosen treatment plan.

Treatments for eye cancers might affect your vision. Doctors try to preserve vision in the eye 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.

Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial

Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they are not right for everyone.

If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials. See Clinical Trials to learn more.

Considering complementary and alternative methods

You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned to treat your cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.

Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.

Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision. See the Complementary and Alternative Medicine section to learn more.

Help getting through cancer treatment

Your cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.

The American Cancer Society also has programs and services – including rides to treatment, lodging, and more – to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists.

The treatment information given here is not official policy of the American Cancer 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.