Cancers of the eye or eye socket threaten not only a person’s vision, but his or her life as well. The specialist physicians in the Eye/Orbital Cancer Program at the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Eye Institute provide comprehensive care for patients with these diseases. The Eye/Orbital Cancer Program is one of the disease-specific programs at the Clinical Cancer Center.

Interdisciplinary Approach

Tumors developing in or around the eyes require specialized medical care. The physicians in the Eye/Orbital Cancer Program have advanced fellowship training in ophthalmologic surgical procedures.

  • The program team includes oculoplastic surgery specialists (who treat tumors of the eye socket, eyelids and conjunctiva) and retina service physicians (who address tumors inside the eye).
  • Because of the complexity of eye and orbital cancers, the program team frequently calls on specialists from the Cornea/External Eye Disease, Pediatric Ophthalmology and Neuro-Ophthalmology services.
  • Care and treatment can also require input from specialist physicians from throughout the Clinical Cancer Center, including dermatologic surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, head and neck surgeons and neurosurgeons. 

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Facts About Eye/Orbital Cancers

Cancerous tumors—both benign and malignant—can develop in several sites within the eyes and surrounding structures, including the retina, the vitreous, the uveal tract, the cornea, the conjunctiva, the eye socket and the eyelids.

  • Choroidal melanoma is a malignant cancer caused by uncontrolled cell growth within the eye. It occurs most frequently in patients 60 to 65 years old.
  • Retinoblastoma, a cancer originating in the retina, is most common in children under five. Nationwide, more than 500 new cases of retinoblastoma are diagnosed every year.
  • Ocular cancers also include malignancies that spread to the eyes from other parts of the body—for example, metastatic breast cancer or lung cancer.
  • Orbital and ocular lymphomas are tumors that can grow in or around the eye ball. Sometimes they are associated with lymphoma in other parts of the body, but typically they are the only site of disease and can be treated with low doses of external radiation which preserves the eyeball and surrounding tissues.

Symptoms of eye cancer include blurry vision, distorted vision, blind spots, decreased side vision, white pupils, strabismus, red eye, eye pain and complete vision loss. Ocular tumors sometimes present no symptoms at all.

Complete Treatment Options

The physicians in the Eye/Orbital Cancer Program use several specialized techniques to treat ocular tumors, including research and the use of clinical trials.

Individual care plans can include one or more treatment methods, including laser surgery, external beam radiation, cryotherapy (destruction of cancerous tissue by freezing) and chemotherapy.

Plaque brachytherapy may be used when external beam radiation would cause too much damage to surrounding healthy tissues. Small "seeds" containing radioactive material are attached to a metal plaque. The plaque is then sutured to the eye, inside the socket, with the seeds facing the tumor. This technique limits radiation exposure to healthy tissue, confining the radiation dose as much as possible to the cancer. The plaque is removed after several days.

Certain tumor types are so malignant that the focus of treatment must shift from saving the patient’s eyesight to simply saving the patient’s life. In these instances, the only treatment choice is enucleation, the removal of the affected eye.

Second Opinions for Eye/Orbital Cancer

We also offer second opinions for those diagnosed with an eye or orbital cancer. Second opinions provide patients with the reassurance that a diagnosis is accurate and that they know all of the treatment options available to them. Learn more about our Cancer Second Opinion Program.

Doctors and Staff

Virtual Visits Are Available

Safe and convenient virtual visits by video let you get the care you need via a mobile device, tablet or computer wherever you are. We’ll gather your medical records for you and get our experts’ input so we can offer treatment options without an in-person visit. To schedule a virtual visit, call 1-866-680-0505.

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