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Eye Cancer: Lacrimal Gland Tumors

Lymphoma: Lymphomas in the lacrimal gland usually are lesions in the upper outer part of the eye. The first step in diagnosis is a surgical biopsy of the lacrimal gland, which is done by an orbital surgeon.

The biopsy should be evaluated by pathologists with lymphoma expertise and classified with the exact type of lymphoma. Treatment for this eye cancer may involve radiation therapy to the orbit, monoclonal antibody therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of these treatments.

Adenoid cystic carcinoma: This rare eye cancer is the most prevalent epithelial cancer of the lacrimal gland. It has the potential to spread and become life threatening.

Our ophthalmic surgeons have published extensively about this eye cancer. We have developed an expert team of orbital surgeons, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists and plastic surgeons who work together to deliver the most-advanced treatments. For smaller or less-aggressive tumors, eye-preserving surgery followed by proton therapy may be used.

Pleomorphic adenoma: This is the most common benign tumor of the lacrimal gland. Correct diagnosis based on clinical signs and imaging studies is very important. The entire tumor should be surgically removed. With appropriate surgery, treatment usually is successful, and most patients will not have a recurrence.

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

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Lacrimal Gland Cancer Staging

(source: American Joint Committee on Cancer)

If you are diagnosed with eye cancer, your doctor will determine the stage of the disease. Staging is a way of classifying how much disease is in the body and where it has spread when it is diagnosed. This information helps your doctor plan the best type of treatment for you. Once the staging classification is determined, it stays the same even if treatment is successful or the cancer spreads.

The most common staging system used for eye cancers was developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC). The TNM system is based on three key pieces of information:

  • T describes the size of the primary tumor and/or whether it has invaded nearby structures
  • N describes whether the cancer has spread to nearby (regional) lymph nodes
  • M indicates whether the cancer has metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body (The most common site of eye melanoma spread is the liver)

Numbers or letters appear after T, N and M to provide more details about each of these factors:

  • The numbers 0 through 4 indicate increasing severity
  • The letter X means "cannot be assessed" because the information is not available.

Lacrimal gland cancers are staged as follows:

T categories:

  • TX: Primary tumor cannot be assessed
  • T0: No evidence of primary tumor
  • T1: Tumor is 2 centimeters or less in greatest dimension, with or without extra-glandular extension into orbital soft tissue
  • T2: Tumor is larger than 2 centimeters but not larger than 4 centimeters in greatest dimension (As the maximum size of the lacrimal gland is 2centimeters, T2 and greater tumors will usually extend into the orbital soft tissue)
  • T3: Tumor is larger than 4 centimeters in greatest dimension
  • T4: Tumor invades periosteum or orbital bone or adjacent structures
  • T4a: Tumor invades periosteum
  • T4b: Tumor invades orbital bone
  • T4c: Tumor invades adjacent structures (brain, sinus, pterygoid fossa, temporal fossa)

N categories:

  • NX: Regional lymph nodes cannot be assessed
  • N0: No regional lymph node metastasis
  • N1: Regional lymph node metastasis

M categories:

  • M0: No distant metastasis
  • M1: Distant metastasis

© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center