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Eye Cancer

Our Approach

At MD Anderson's Eye Clinic, your care for eye cancer is tailored specifically for you by highly skilled and renowned experts. They work together in teams, communicating and collaborating at every step, to be sure you receive the most advanced therapies with the least impact on your body.

Most cancers affecting the eye and orbital area are rare and require treatment at centers familiar with the best treatment and diagnosis options. Because our eye cancer program is one of the nation’s most active, we have a remarkable level of experience and expertise.

Our ophthalmologists have special training in surgical and medical treatment of cancers of the eye, eyelid, orbit, conjunctiva, lacrimal gland and structures around the eye. They work closely with their colleagues in radiation oncology, medical oncology, pathology, plastic surgery, and head and neck surgery to deliver the best personalized care and outcomes. Our doctors take pride in treating ocular and orbital cancers, while making every effort to preserve ocular function and vision.  

Personalized Care, Advanced Research

MD Anderson's ophthalmologists customize your treatment to include the latest technology and methods to treat eye cancer, which may include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy including proton therapy
  • Targeted therapies
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy (a new method that finds early metastatic disease from eye cancer to the lymph nodes)
  • The latest ophthalmic reconstructive procedures to preserve function and appearance in the eye and facial area

If surgery is needed, it is done by some of the nation’s top ophthalmic surgeons and highly specialized eye reconstructive surgeons. And we are constantly researching new ways to diagnose and treat eye cancer. This means we are able to offer clinical trials of new therapies.

If you have been diagnosed with eye cancer, we’re here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Latest eye cancer treatments, including specialized surgical techniques to remove cancer but save the eye, proton therapy, targeted therapies, advanced reconstructive surgery for eyelid and orbital cancer
  • Advanced diagnostic techniques including sentinel lymph node biopsy, ultrasound biomicroscopy, confocal biomicroscopy and optical coherence tomography (OCT)
  • Skilled, highly specialized eye surgeons and reconstructive surgeons who have dedicated many years of their career to exclusively treat cancer
  • We treat more eye cancers than most centers
  • Team approach to treating eye cancers
  • Clinical trials of leading-edge treatments for eye cancer

Eye Cancer Knowledge Center

Treatment at MD Anderson

Cancers of the eye are treated in our:

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Eye Cancer Facts

Cancer can develop in several structures in the eye area. These include:

Eyeball: The structures inside the eye where cancer can develop include the choroid, ciliary body, iris and retina.

The uvea, the middle layer of the eyeball, contains the:

  • Iris: The colored part of the eye. The pupil, a small opening the lets light come into the eyeball, is in the middle of the iris
  • Choroid: Thin layer around the eyeball that provides the eye with blood
  • Ciliary body: Made up of muscles inside eye that help it focus and cells where aqueous humor (clear liquid in front of eye) begins
  • Retina: The layer of cells in the back of the eye. The retina is connected by the optic nerve to the brain. Its cells are sensitive to light and help us see images. When light comes into the eye, it passes through the lens. This makes an image on the retina, which is then sent by the optic nerve to the brain.

Orbit: The space around and behind the eye has bony walls and contains important nerves, including the optic nerve, and muscles that move the eye.

Eyelid: Tumors that affect eyelids can be on the skin of the eyelid or on the inside layer of the eyelid (tarsus and conjunctiva).

Conjunctiva: Surface covering of the eye that also covers the inside of the eyelid

Lacrimal Gland: The gland, which makes tears, is in the upper outer quadrant of the orbit.

Lacrimal Sac/Duct: This structure, which drains the tears, is in the inner lower quadrant of the orbit near the nose.

Eye Cancer Types

Many types of cancer can affect the eye and the ocular structures. 

Cancers involving the eyeball include:

  • Uveal melanoma (melanoma of the iris, choroid or ciliary body)
  • Retinoblastoma, which is the most frequent type of cancer affecting the eyeball in children

Cancers of the eyelids and surrounding skin include:

  • Basal cell carcinoma of eyelid
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of eyelid
  • Sebaceous carcinoma of eyelid
  • Melanoma of eyelid
  • Merkel cell carcinoma of eyelid
  • Adnexal carcinoma of eyelid

Cancers of the conjunctiva (surface covering of eyeball) include:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of conjunctiva
  • Melanoma of conjunctiva
  • MALT lymphoma of conjunctiva

Orbital cancers include:

  • Orbital lymphoma
  • Orbital sarcoma (including rhabdomyosarcoma, myxoid sarcoma, alveolar soft part sarcoma)
  • Orbital and optic nerve meningioma
  • Metastatic tumors of orbit
  • Other carcinomas of orbit

Lacrimal gland tumors include:

  • Lymphoma of lacrimal gland
  • Adenoid cystic carcinoma of lacrimal gland
  • Pleomorphic adenoma of lacrimal gland
  • Other epithelial tumors of lacrimal gland

Lacrimal sac and nasolacrimal duct cancers include:

  • Squamous cell carcinomas of lacrimal sac
  • Transitional cell carcinoma of lacrimal sac and duct
  • Lacrimal sac lymphoma

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center