Cancer starts when the cells in your body start to grow out of control.  It can spread to any part of your body.

An eye cancer is something that starts in your eye and is called ocular cancer. One that occurs inside your eye is called ocular cancer, while the one that occurs outside you eye is called extraocular.

Let’s take a look at different types of eye cancers.

  • Ocular melanoma

Ocular melanoma is one of the most primary eye cancers in adults. It can grow and spread to other parts of the body. And in half of the cases, it is fatal. Melanoma develops from the cells called melanocytes – the pigment that gives colour to skin, hair and eye. While melanomas usually form on the skin, they can also form in the eyes.

The ones that form in the eyes are called ocular melanoma or uveal melanoma. This cancer can involve any three parts of your eyes – the iris (the area surrounding the pupil), the ciliary body (a thin tissue layer in your eye), and the choroid (the layer between the retina and white outer layer).

Iris melanomas are usually easy to spot, while ciliary body melanomas are the most difficult ones. Most ocular melanomas originate in the choroid; the ciliary body is less common and the iris is the least common. Melanoma can also occur in the conjunctiva or on the eyelid, but usually this is very rare.

2)      Lymphoma

Lymphoma is a cancer that involves the body’s white blood cells, or lymphocytes. Lymphomas rarely occur in eyes. The ones that occur in the eyes are called primary intraocular lymphoma. You are more likely to suffer from this type of cancer if you have a weakened immune system.

You are at high risk if you have

  • AIDS
  • Had organ transplants and are on medication
  • Are elderly

Signs and symptoms

  • Blurred or loss of vision
  • Seeing spots drifting in the field of vision
  • Redness or swelling in the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye pain

Intraocular lymphoma most often affects both eyes, but it can cause more symptoms in one eye than in the other.

3)      Retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer that mostly occurs in children under the age of 5. Caused by a genetic mutation, this cancer begins in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. The nerve cells in the retina begin to grow and start multiplying and spread into the eye and other parts of the body. This cancer can rarely occur in adults. Retinoblastoma may occur in one or both eyes.

Since retinoblastoma occurs in infants and young children, symptoms are very rare. But still there are some signs that you can look for

  • A white color in the pupil or center circle of the eye when light is flashed in the eye. For instance while taking a flash photograph
  • Eyes that seem to be looking in different directions
  • Eye redness
  • Eye swelling

Consult your doctor in case you notice any changes in the colour of your child’s eyes.

  • Medulloepithelioma

Intraocular medulloepithelioma arises from the primitive medullary epithelium and is diagnosed at an average age of five years. This tumour most commonly appears as a white, gray, or yellow-coloured ciliary body tumour. The growth of medulloepithelioma is slow and usually doesn’t spread. Poor vision and pain are the most common symptoms of medulloepithelioma. The most common clinical signs include cyst or mass in iris, anterior chamber or ciliary body, glaucoma, and cataract.

5)      Squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva

Squamous cells are flat, thin cells covering many surfaces of the body. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common type of cancer of the conjunctiva in adults. The conjunctiva is the clear moist membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelid. Although rare, squamous cell cancer is the most common cancer of the conjunctiva.

SCC of the conjunctiva tends to occur in older people. It also occurs more often in men than in women. People with AIDS have an increased risk of developing this cancer. It generally grows at a slow pace and very rarely spreads to another part of the body.

The tumours often appear in the area closest to the nose or temple. These tumours can cause eye irritation or chronic conjunctivitis. If conjunctivitis lasts more than 3 months, it may be an indication of squamous cell carcinoma.

6)      Cancers around the eyeball

The tissues and structures surrounding the eyeball can also get cancer.  The areas around the eyes are called the orbit and the accessory muscles. Cancers that develop in these parts of the eye are cancers of muscle, nerve and skin tissue.

A cancer of the eyelid is usually a basal cell skin cancer. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare type of cancer that begins in the eye muscles in children.