Eye cancer is a good reason to protect your eyes

Eye cancer is an umbrella term that describes many different types of tumours that can form in different areas of the eye. It occurs when cells in the eye undergo a change that causes them to behave abnormally, multiply rapidly and accumulate into masses called tumours. If these tumours are malignant,

according to the Cancer Society

, they can destroy nearby tissue and metastasize (or spread) to other areas of the body. These changes to the cells in the eye can also lead to precancerous conditions that may become cancerous if left untreated.

The most common type of primary eye cancer is known as eye (or ocular) melanoma. This form of the disease begins in the melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin (a pigment that gives eyes, hair and skin their colour). Eye melanoma is difficult to detect because it presents few warning signs in its early stages and occurs in a part of the eye that can’t be seen by looking in a mirror.

Melanomas of the eye are rare and can be treated without any loss to vision if they are discovered early. If the melanoma is large or discovered late, however, some loss of vision may occur.

What are the symptoms of eye cancer?

The warning signs of eye cancer are difficult to detect early and often only appear once tumours reach a size that causes changes to tissue or vision. You should see your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms: vision issues, including blurry vision or vision loss; seeing flashes of light or shadows; or seeing floaters (spots or squiggly lines in the field of vision); an unusual dark spot on the eye; a lump on the eye; bulging of the eye; changes in the size or shape of the pupil; persisting redness or irritation of the eye; or a change in the position of the eye in its socket

How is eye cancer diagnosed?

Doctors will usually begin with a full eye exam before making a diagnosis of eye cancer. This may be followed by more tests,

according to BC Cancer

, including:

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