A choroidal melanoma is a type of cancer that develops in the eye and produces pigment. Pigment gives color to your skin, hair, and eyes. Just as you can develop a melanoma in your skin, you can also develop it inside the eye. Although it is the most common cancer to originate within the eye in adults, a choroidal melanoma is rare.
Causes of Choroidal Melanoma
Choroidal melanoma occurs when the DNA of the pigment cells develop errors, causing the cells to multiply out of control and eventually forming cancer. It is not clear why choroidal melanomas develop, although many suspect the cause is multifactorial, involving genetics as well as environmental exposure. People with a previously documented choroidal nevus (“eye freckle”, see above) are at higher risk. Other risk factors include lighter-colored eyes and a family history of eye cancers.
What are the implications of choroidal melanoma?
A choroidal melanoma is a malignant cancer within the eye. As such, it poses a significant risk to both the eye and the body. A choroidal melanoma can grow in size and spread to other areas of the eye, often causing increased blurry vision. It can also spread to other parts of the body (a process known as metastasis) by traveling through the blood circulation. Common organs that a choroidal melanoma can spread to are the liver and the lungs. If it is determined that you have a choroidal melanoma, it is essential for you to also be evaluated by a medical oncologist in addition to an ocular oncologist.
Treatment Options for Choroidal Melanoma
The type of treatment that is recommended for a choroidal melanoma can vary depending on numerous factors such as size of the tumor, amount of vision that remains, whether the tumor has spread to other parts of the body, and other health conditions that may complicate surgery.
The most common form of treatment is brachytherapy, where a radioactive plaque is surgically implanted onto the eye for a duration of time and then removed. Other forms of radiation therapy include gamma knife therapy and proton beam therapy. These are performed in conjunction with a radiation oncologist.
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