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Eye Cancer Treatment

Treatment of ocular cancers is highly specialized. At MD Anderson, we personalize your care to include the most-advanced therapies with the least impact on your body.  Our goals are to provide successful treatment while preserving your eye and vision when possible and restore your appearance after treatment.  

If you are diagnosed with an ocular cancer, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. This depends on several factors, including:

  • The type of cancer
  • Location and size of cancer
  • If cancer has spread (metastasized)
  • Your age and health

At MD Anderson, your treatment for ocular cancer will be customized to your particular needs. One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat the cancer or help relieve symptoms.

Surgery

One of the following surgeries may be used to treat eye cancer.

Eye-preserving surgery: This is often possible for eyelid cancers, conjunctival cancers and orbital cancers. Our highly specialized eye surgeons use the latest surgical techniques to remove the cancer while making every effort to preserve the function and aesthetic appearance of your eye, eyelid and facial area.

Iridectomy: The iris (colored part of the eye) is removed.

Iridotrabeculectomy: The iris and a small part of the outer section of the eyeball are removed.

Eye reconstructive surgery: Our ophthalmic plastic, or oculoplastic, surgeons often can restore function, preserve vision and improve cosmetic appearance after surgical removal of cancer of the eyelid, conjunctiva or orbit.  

Enucleation: To treat some types of eye cancer, the entire eye has to be removed. This is done only in advanced cases and in some instances for intraocular tumors such as uveal melanoma or retinoblastoma.

Orbital exenteration: This surgery entails the removal of the eye, eyelids, surrounding skin, orbital muscles, fat and nerves. It is sometimes needed for aggressive cancers of the orbit or sinuses, or advanced or recurrent cancers of the eyelid or conjunctiva.

Laser Treatment

A laser uses an intense, focused beam of light to destroy eye cancer tissue. This is used sometimes for treatment of uveal melanoma.

Radiation Therapy

MD Anderson provides the most advanced radiation treatments for eye cancer, including:

  • Brachytherapy: Tiny radioactive seeds are placed in the body close to the tumor. This technique is commonly used for treatment of uveal melanoma.
  • 3D-conformal radiation therapy: Several radiation beams are given in the exact shape of the tumor. This technique can be used for certain types of orbital tumors.
  • Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT): Treatment is tailored to the specific shape of the tumor. This technique is used for treatment of orbital and eyelid cancers.
  • Gamma Knife stereotactic radiation surgery: Pinpoint beams of radiation are given from hundreds of angles. This technique is used for certain types of orbital and skull base tumors.

Proton Therapy

Proton therapy is used for tumors of the orbit such as orbital rhabdomyosarcoma, optic nerve and orbital meningiomas, and certain types of cancers of the lacrimal sac/duct.

Cryotherapy

Extreme cold is used to destroy cancer cells. This treatment is used with surgery for some conjunctival cancers such as conjunctival squamous cell carcinoma and conjunctival melanoma.

Monoclonal Antibodies

These special antibodies work with the body’s immune system to help it fight the eye cancer. Our ophthalmologists have conducted clinical trials of monoclonal antibodies for treatment of orbital and conjunctival lymphoma.

Chemotherapy

Our ophthalmologists have experience with topical chemotherapy in the form of eye drops, which may be used along with surgery for certain types of conjunctival carcinoma and conjunctival melanoma.

Chemotherapy may be given for retinoblastoma and certain types of orbital lymphoma. MD Anderson ophthalmologists have worked with medical oncologists to develop newer forms of oral chemotherapy that are targeted against certain forms of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma as an alternative to surgery.

Treatment at MD Anderson

Cancers of the eye are treated in our Eye Clinic in the Head and Neck Center.

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.

Counseling

MD Anderson has licensed social workers to help patients and their loved ones cope with cancer.

myCancerConnection

Talk to someone who shares your cancer diagnosis and be matched with a survivor.

Prevention and Screening

Many cancers can be prevented with lifestyle changes and regular screening.