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Eye Cancer Diagnosis

MD Anderson’s experts use the most advanced and accurate technology and techniques to pinpoint the extent and type of eye cancer. This can make a vital difference in the success of your treatment and recovery.

Our leading-edge diagnostic tools and methods include:

  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy to detect early microscopic metastasis
  • Ultrasound biomicroscopy to diagnose intraocular tumors
  • Confocal biomicroscopy
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT) for more accurate diagnosis of conjunctival cancers

Eye Cancer Diagnostic Tests

Usually an exam by an ophthalmologist or other eye care provider can diagnose ocular cancer. Other tests may include:

  • Dilated retinal exam to help diagnose intraocular tumors
  • Ultrasound of the eye for intraocular tumors
  • Careful inspection of the outside of the eye and eye movements for orbital, eyelid and conjunctival tumors
  • Imaging tests, such as:
    • CT or CAT (computed axial tomography) scans
    • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
    • Surgical biopsy to confirm cancers of the orbit, eyelid or conjunctiva

Eye Cancer Staging

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.

Eye Cancer Stages

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 ocular cancers is the one set up and approved by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC).  The TNM system of the AJCC 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

Clinical Trials

MD Anderson patients have access to clinical trials
offering promising new treatments that cannot be found anywhere else.

Knowledge Center

Find the latest news and information about eye cancer in our Knowledge Center, including blog posts, articles, videos, news releases and more.