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Symptoms of eye cancer can include:

  • Having trouble seeing
  • A loss of vision that comes without pain
  • Seeing light flashes
  • Having a dark spot on the eye
  • Seeing spots, lines, or other floating shapes

These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions that aren’t related to eye cancer.

In some cases, your child may not show any symptoms of eye cancer.

When to See a Doctor

If your child complains of eye pain, has eyes that don’t look normal, has a sudden loss of vision, or whose eyes look strange in pictures, you should take them to see their doctor.

It can be hard to tell when eye cancer is present in your child. Regular eye exams can help catch eye cancer early and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.


Eye cancer is caused when cells start to grow and multiply in places where they are not needed. The cancer cells form tumors that can put pressure on one or both eyes and cause a loss of vision.

With some types of eye cancer, such as retinoblastoma, if either parent has the condition then their children are more likely to get it. Other kinds of eye cancer are caused by cells that mutate, or change, in your child’s body.

Eye cancer can also be caused by too much exposure to the sun or to a heat lamp. Children of certain races or with certain eye colors may also have a higher risk.

Diagnosis and Tests

Eye cancer can be diagnosed with many different tests. Some tests may work better for your child than others. The doctor will consider your child’s age and medical history before deciding on a test. Some options include:

  • A physical eye examination. Melanoma can be found when the doctor looks at your child’s eyes with a light or a lamp with a microscope attached.
  • Ultrasound [UHL-truh-sound]. Sound waves are used to create pictures of the eye and show any tumors that might be forming.
  • A CT scan or MRI. These imaging tests also show tumors or cancerous tissue that is growing in or around your child’s eyes.
  • Biopsy [BAHY-op-see]. This is a test where cells are taken from your child’s eye and examined for signs of cancer under a microscope.

Your doctor may recommend other tests to figure out the exact condition of your child’s eyes.


Treatment methods vary depending on the kind of eye cancer that your child has. Some treatment options may include:

  • Surgery with a laser to cut out the tumor, or the tumor may be frozen out.
  • Radiation [rey-dee-AY-shuhn] therapy that targets tumors inside the eyes as well as tumors that are larger. Radiation therapy uses x-rays.
  • Chemotherapy [kee-moh-THER-uh-pee] may be used if the cancer has spread to another part of the body. Chemotherapy is cancer-killing medicine given through a vein in your child’s arm.
  • Eye removal may be needed if the tumor doesn’t shrink or go away after being treated with other methods.

If the eye cancer has not spread, it is very likely that it can be cured. Sometimes treatment of the cancer may result in damage to, or loss of, the eye.

Cancer pain can be a serious side effect of cancer treatment. Work with your doctor and the rest of your child’s healthcare team to lessen any pain that your child has from cancer treatment.


For cancers that can be passed down from parents to their children, it can be helpful to know if either parent carries the disease when making decisions about pregnancy.

Too much exposure to the sun or to a heat lamp can increase your child’s risk for eye cancer, so avoid letting your child have too much exposure to heat lamps or the sun.

What is Eye Cancer?

Eye cancer is a rare disease where cancer cells develop in your child’s eyes. Cancer occurs when cells start to grow in ways they aren’t supposed to. The cells can clump together and form a lump called a tumor. If the cells aren’t treated or the tumor isn’t removed, the cells can move to other parts of the body and start growing there.

The eye has three main parts:

  • Eye socket
  • Eyeball
  • Other parts of the eye, like the eyelids and tear glands

Eye cancer can occur in any of these areas.

Eye cancer is a term that includes all the ways that tumors can grow in or around the eyes. Some kinds of eye cancer include:

  • Intraocular lymphoma [in-truh-OK-yuh-ler lim-FOH-muh]. A very rare kind of cancer of the immune system that forms inside of your child’s eye.
  • Retinoblastoma [ret-noh-bla-STOH-muh]. A rare kind of eye cancer that occurs most often in children under the age of five. Children with this condition grow a tumor in their retina. The retina is the back of the eyeball where the cells that are sensitive to light are. This condition can be passed down from parents to children.
  • Hemangioma [hi-man-jee-OH-muh]. A kind of eye cancer that starts with a benign tumor (a tumor that isn’t spreading to other parts of the body) that forms in the blood vessels of the eyes.
  • Conjunctival melanoma [kon-juhngk-TAHY-vuhl mel-uh-NOH-muh]. A rare condition where a tumor grows in the conjunctiva, which is a layer on both the eye and the eyelid. This condition can form dark spots on your child’s eye or eyes.
  • Eyelid and tear gland tumors. Tumors that form in the skin or in the tear glands need to be taken out with surgery.

Cancer grows over four stages. Stage I is the least severe, and stage IV Is the most severe. Cancers that are caught in the earlier stages have a higher chance of being treated successfully. If cancer gets to later stages, it can be much harder to treat.