Ocular melanoma, a rare eye cancer, affects the part of the eye called the uvea. The uvea contains pigment-producing cells called melanocytes, and consists of the iris, ciliary body and choroid. The iris is the coloured part of the eye. Iris melanoma develops when iris melanocytes become cancerous. The cancer usually remains localised.
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A melanoma starting in the iris often appears as a dark spot, similar to a mole, on the coloured part of the eye. Some people have raised freckles on their irises called nevi. Unlike melanomas, nevi are benign growths. Any spot that changes in appearance, grows, or distorts the pupil requires examination by an eye care specialist.
Cancer Spread Rate
According to the National Institute of Health, iris melanomas grow slowly, rarely spread to other body parts, and have the best prognosis with 5-year survival rates over 95 per cent. The Eye Cancer Network claims that only 1 to 5 per cent of iris melanomas spread to other parts of the body. According to the University of Iowa Department of Ophthalmology, "the overall rate of spread at 10 years is 3 to 5 per cent."
According to the National Cancer Institute, non-growing, asymptomatic iris melanomas require careful watching and monitoring by an eye care professional. As long as tumour growth remains stable, invasive therapy is not required. Surgery, plaque radiotherapy, or eye removal are reserved for growing tumours. Tumour size dictates therapy type.
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