Types, Stages And Basic Treatment For Eye Cancers Explained By Dr Mahipal Singh Sachdev

Cancers of the eye can be daunting and can lead to complete blindness if not treated on time. Read more to know

Vani Malik
Written by: Vani MalikUpdated at: Mar 23, 2020 15:06 IST
Types, Stages  And Basic Treatment For Eye Cancers Explained By Dr Mahipal Singh Sachdev

Little do we know, but eyes can also develop tumours just like other parts of the body. In general term, we describe it as eye cancer. When the healthy cells in or around the eye change and grow in numbers in less time, forming a mass called a tumour. Tumours can be benign or malignant. Eye tumours are a threat to eyesight and can even have a severe effect on health and life. The eye has a unique structure and cancer in the eye can not only potentially wipe out the vision but also can endanger the eye and life. Dr Mahipal Singh Sachdev, Director, Centre For Sight, explains all about eyes cancers for general awareness:


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Types Of Eye Cancers?

The Intraocular melanoma is the most common eye cancer in adults and retinoblastoma in children:

The intraocular tumour - is rare cancer but is the most common type of cancer seen in adults. The most common sites of the melanoma include:

  • Uvea - The cancer cells of intraocular melanoma are usually found in the uvea of the eye.
  • Iris - Intraocular cancer in the iris usually grows slowly and doesn’t spread. The tumour can be seen on the iris as a darker spot than the surrounding area. 
  • Ciliary or Choroid - In the choroid or ciliary body, the tumour occurs on the back. Sometime intraocular cancer spreads and takes the shape of extraocular, and can spread to the surrounding tissues. 

Retinoblastoma - can happen at any age but often detected in children younger than five. It starts as a small tumour in the retina. As the child grows, the retina keeps originating from the cells called retinoblasts, which helps in increasing and divides it no time. These cells become the mature cells of the retina when they stop growing. So in the case of retinoblastoma the retinoblasts keep on growing and form a tumour. Retinoblastoma is classified into three types of cancer: - 

  • Intraocular: The cancer is found in either one or both the eyes but not in the external tissue of the eye.
  • Extraocular: This cancer spreads outside the eye. It can also spear in the tissues that surround the eye and even the other parts of the body. 
  • Recurrent retinoblastoma: This type returns even after being cured. It can recur in the surrounding tissue or anywhere in the body. 

Stages Of Eye Cancer?

Stages are nothing but the progression of the tumour, an indication of the effect on the vision, and spread. The following are the sizes –

  • Small: 1 mm-3 mm height & 5 mm-16 mm diameter
  • Medium: 3.1 mm-8 mm height and till 16 mm diameter
  • Large: Larger than 8 mm & more than 16 mm in diameter

# Stage I: The tumour is smaller in size and does not involve the ciliary body or other arts of the eye, nor has it spread to the regional lymph nodes or other areas of the body.

# Stage II: In this stage (Stage II – A) the tumour is either small and may or may not involve the ciliary body, and there may be no extraocular extension. Once the spread increases, the size increases to medium but does not spread beyond the eyeball. This is stage II – B.

# Stage III: 

  • Stage III (A) – the size of the tumour is restricted to a diameter less than mm, but the height may vary from small, medium to large. The spread also may or may not involve the ciliary body, extraocular spread.
  • Stage IIIB - The tumour is a medium and large size that has not spread to the lymph nodes.
  •  Stage IIIC - The tumour is of considerable size that involves the ciliary body and has spread outside the eyeball.

# Stage IV: This stage describes a tumour of any size that has spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body outside of the eye.

Age Group In Target?

In India, around 10,000 new eye cancer cases are diagnosed every year in which between 20-30 per cent are children(under the age of 12 years) and 70 - 80% are adults. If the cancer is detected at early stages and with appropriate treatment, the cure is possible.

Symptoms Of Eye Cancers

People need to be aware of the condition to identify and detect the initial signs quickly. If a patient sees white reflex in the cornea, it is advised to consult a specialist immediately. Other symptoms include swelling of the eye, persistent redness and squint. Retinoblastoma, a rare type of eye cancer, is usually developed in early childhood (under the age of 5 years) and is gradually affecting more and more children. Parents are requested to closely monitor their child’s vision and undergo regular checkups.

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Treatment For Eye Cancer

While the treatment depends on the stage of cancer, usually advanced stage cancers can be treated but with very little hope of vision restoration. The surgical methods include –

  • Choroidectomy
  • Iridectomy
  • Iridocyclectomy
  • Iridotrabeculectomy


Radiation and Chemotherapy are the two treatment options that help in removing the tumour and its prevention to other part of the body. Cryotherapy is also used to destroy the cancer cells through the excessive cold. Thermotherapy, heat from the laser is given to destroy cancer cells. 

With inputs from Dr Mahipal Singh Sachdev, Director, Centre For Sight

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