Key Points about Conjunctival Melanoma
- Conjunctival melanoma is a type of skin cancer that affects the eye.
- Doctors use imaging tests, biopsy and physical exams to diagnose conjunctival melanoma.
- Treatment for conjunctival melanoma may include chemotherapy and/or surgery.
Conjunctival melanoma is a type of melanoma (serious type of skin cancer) that begins in the tissue that lines the conjunctiva (inside of the eyelids). Conjunctival melanoma can metastasize (spread) to other areas of the body, including the lung, liver, brain or bone.
Conjunctival melanoma causes
This type of cancer is caused when the cells of the conjunctiva develop mutations (changes) to their DNA.
Conjunctival melanoma risk factors
The following factors may increase your risk for developing conjunctival melanoma:
- Being Caucasian
- Being exposed to excessive amounts of ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or tanning beds
- Being middle-aged, specifically in your 50s
- Having a compromised immune system
- Having a family history of melanoma
- Having a lot of moles on the skin (nevi)
- Having a personal history of severe sunburn
- Having fair skin
- Living close to the equator or living at a high elevation
Conjunctival melanoma symptoms
The main symptom of this condition is a raised lesion (spot) in the eye that may be colored or uncolored.
Conjunctival melanoma diagnosis
Your oncologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:
- Physical exam – your doctor will perform a complete physical exam, including asking questions about your health history, symptoms and related risk factors.
- Biopsy – in this test, your doctor removes a biopsy (small sample) from the suspicious area. This sample is sent to the laboratory, where a specialist closely checks the biopsy for signs of conjunctival melanoma.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan – this type of imaging test provides a 3D image of the inside of the body that your doctor can use to determine the stage of the cancer.
Conjunctival melanoma treatments
Depending on your personal health history, the extent of the cancer and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
- Surgery – you may need to undergo surgery to remove the cancerous area. Your surgeon will work to preserve as much surrounding healthy tissue as possible.
- Chemotherapy – during this treatment, you will take medications that work to destroy the cancer. The medication is delivered either orally (by pill) or intravenously (by vein).
When should I seek care?
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.