Uveal melanoma afflicts 2,000 people in the U.S. per year
If you, or a loved one, have been diagnosed with uveal melanoma, you are not alone. Although it is rare, and its cause not well understood, uveal melanoma is the most common form of eye cancer in the U.S., with about 2,000 diagnoses per year.
This form of eye cancer, also known as ocular melanoma, may occur in any of the three parts of the uvea. For this reason, it may also be referred to as choroidal, ciliary body, or iris melanoma based upon its exact location. The choroid is the most common place for a tumor to develop.
Similar to other melanomas, uveal melanoma begins in cells called melanocytes that help produce the pigments of our skin, hair, and eyes. While most patients are middle-aged with fair skin, uveal melanoma can and has affected people of all complexions and ages.
Half of patients will experience metastasis
While uveal melanoma is a potentially fatal form of cancer, many patients go on to live long and healthy lives. Available treatments—eye-sparing radiation or eye removal—almost always cure the original eye tumor. However, in up to half of patients, the cancer has already spread, or metastasized, prior to diagnosis–an event doctors call micrometastasis. The cancer eventually moves to another part of the body, most likely the liver, where it is incurable. However, there is hopeful and growing evidence that early detection and targeted treatment may be able to achieve better outcomes.
Coping with your diagnosis can be difficult. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from family, friends, or even counselors. Make sure that you ask your doctors plenty of questions, seek second opinions, learn everything you can, and most of all, know your options.