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Intraocular Tumors – Eye Cancer (Jacksonville, FL)

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What are Intraocular Tumors?

Cancer of the eye is a serious condition that can be accurately diagnosed by our Jacksonville, FL board-certified ophthalmologists, Dr. John Sullivan and Dr. Shawn Agee. Similar to other tumors found in the human body, intraocular tumors can be benign or malignant and can have unpredictable outcomes. These specific tumors are found and can affect the retina in the back of the eye, the iris, the choroid, or the sclera. While benign tumors are non-cancerous can usually be easily treated, malignant tumors can signal cancer and lead to a whole host of other issues. In some cases, these tumors can lead to glaucoma, which is a group of various diseases that can greatly impair vision and even cause blindness.

Early detection of intraocular tumors is critical to prevent worsening symptoms, complications, and even death. Malignant tumors can be various forms of intraocular cancers that are classified as primary or secondary. Primary intraocular cancers actually begin in the eyeball, whereas secondary intraocular cancers are initiated elsewhere in the body, usually the breasts or lungs, and move into the eye.

Causes and Symptoms

There is no singular cause for why a patient might develop intraocular tumors. Since they can take on many forms, affect many locations, and present varied symptoms, there can be multiple reasons. However, tumors form when cells begin to grow uncontrollably and the balance of cell growth and cell death are thrown off in some way. This can be caused by genetics, underlying health problems, viruses, exposure to chemicals and toxins, and/or the use of certain drugs or medications.

When tumors are malignant and cause cancer, the 2 most common forms are intraocular melanoma and primary intraocular lymphoma. With intraocular melanoma, pigment-making cells excessively grow in the eye to form the melanoma, or cancer. In primary intraocular lymphoma, the tumors begin in the lymph nodes and the cells scatter through the body, where some can appear in the eyes. Breast cancer and lung cancer are 2 of the most common cancers that spread to the eyes from other body parts.

Though there are an assortment of symptoms, some of the most common are:

  • Eye pain
  • Changes in vision, including affected peripheral vision and blurry vision
  • Loss of vision
  • Appearance of floaters
  • Appearance of flashes of light
  • Pigmentation/discoloration of the iris


A specialist, such as an ocular oncologist, is usually responsible for diagnosing intraocular tumors. The doctor has many tools at his or her disposal and can use any of the following.

  • Ultrasound – to obtain accurate images of various eye structures, including the presence of a tumor
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT) – imaging test utilizing special light waves to get accurate photos of the retina
  • Biopsy – fine needle biopsy to remove cells from the tumor to check for the presence of cancerous cells
  • Fluorescein angiography – test that involves injecting a patient with a fluorescent dye to enter the bloodstream to eventually move into the blood vessels in the back of the eye to highlight the area to check for abnormalities
  • Indocyanine Green (ICG) Angiography – a special dye is injected into the patient’s bloodstream to fluoresce the deeper layers of the retina to check for the presence of tumors

Treatment and Prognosis

Your specific course of treatment depends on whether your intraocular tumor is benign or malignant, the severity of your condition, and any other underlying medical factors. Common treatments include:

  • Laser therapy
  • Plaque radiotherapy – use of highly concentrated doses of radiation to the intraocular tumor
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy – various forms of radiation therapy are available
  • Eye enucleation – removal and replacement of the eye with a prosthesis
  • Eyewall resection – surgical removal of the tumor
  • Evisceration or Exenteration – surgical removal of most or all of the eye

If the tumor is benign, the patient usually isn’t in a life-threatening position and can have a good outcome with proper treatment. Malignant tumors can be unpredictable and can cause loss of vision, loss of the eye, or even death. If the tumor is diagnosed early and treatment is started immediately, these patients have better outcomes.

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Treat Intraocular Tumors

While many patients may experience benign intraocular tumors that are easy to treat and cause no serious issues, other patients may have life-threatening tumors that require immediate treatment. It’s imperative that you come into our office as soon as you think there’s a problem to prevent dire circumstances. Please give our office a call today to schedule an appointment.

*Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person. Images may contain models.