HealthWatch: Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

Published 03/22 2014 04:52PM

Updated 03/25 2014 05:46PM

Ocular Melanoma: Saving Lives, Saving Eyes

CLEVELAND, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) -Ocular melanoma, also called uveal melanoma, is a type of melanoma that targets the eye. It affects about 2,000 people a year in the United States. Although rare - it can be a deadly if it isn't spotted early enough. Now, there's a way to treat patients that's saving lives and saving eyes.

Sally Martin knits every day.

"I make sweaters, vests, a lot of mittens and hats," Martin told Ivanhoe.

But when she started losing vision in her right eye - her hobby became more difficult.

"I thought it was related to being over 50 and you lose some close-up vision," Martin said.

Martin found out it was something much more serious - uveal melanoma.

"It is not a minor or an insignificant kind of cancer," Arun Singh, MD, Director of Ophthalmic Oncology, Cole Eye Institute and Taussing Cancer Center, The Cleveland Clinic, told Ivanhoe.

Patients with eye melanomas that have spread only have a 15 percent survival rate.

Martin's doctor caught hers before it spread, so she was a candidate for a type of radiation known as brachytherapy. This gold disc was stitched directly on Martin's eye.

"They are seeds within a disc like a radioactive button," Dr. Singh said.

Martin wore the disc for three days in the hospital. During that time, the radioactive seeds targeted the cancer. She still has a blind spot in her right eye, but she's happy to be cancer-free.

"I feel very fortunate that it was caught early, and that my prognosis is very good," Martin explained.

Now, she can focus on making more of her favorite things.

The method has a 95 percent success rate for patients whose tumors haven't spread. Some patients do not have any symptoms when they have melanoma of the eye. It depends on where the tumor is located. These patients typically do not catch the cancer until it has already spread. It spreads to other organs in the body in about half of all cases.





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