Ocular Oncology

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Cancer refers to a group of diseases marked by uncontrolled cell growth. Cancer cells displace normal cells, interrupt their function and can spread to other parts of the body.

Cancers of the eye are rare, but they can take many forms:

External diseases
Cancers of the eyelids and surface of the eye. These include external lesions such as conjunctival tumors. Skin cancer commonly occurs on the eyelids.

Intraocular diseases
Cancers within the eye. These may be present as uveal tumors of the iris, choroid or ciliary body – or, in childhood, as retinal tumors.

Orbital diseases
Cancers in areas surrounding the eye. These lesions include vascular and inflammatory tumors.

The most frequently treated adult intraocular cancer is choroidal melanoma, a primary cancer of the eye that arises from the pigmented cells of the choroid of the eye. It is not a tumor that started somewhere else and then spread to the eye.

Diagnostic Tools

The diverse nature of ocular oncology underscores the importance of accurate diagnosis and of the sophisticated medical technologies that make such diagnosis possible. Among them:

  • Fundus photography
  • Fluorescein angiography
  • Digital angiography
  • Standardized A-scan ultrasonography
  • B-scan ultrasonography
  • High-frequency anterior segment ultrasonography

At Illinois Retina Associates, behind each of these tools is an experienced medical professional with the expertise to make the right diagnosis and recommend the best course of treatment.

Treatment Options

Treating ocular cancer involves two major goals: curing the disease and preserving as much vision as possible. Determining the best treatment for cancer of the eye depends on a number of factors, including the diagnosis, the patient’s needs, tumor type, location, size, thickness and histopathology.

Our ocular oncology program, in association with Rush University Medical Center, offers the broadest range of the latest treatments, which are tailored to the specific needs of each patient. These include:

  • Observation. This may be necessary to study the tumor for developments before suggesting a course of action.
  • Chemotherapy. This involves the use of cytotoxic chemicals to destroy cancer cells on a selective basis.
  • Radiation therapy. This therapy involves the use of iodine 125 plaque or a linear accelerator to counter the proliferation of malignant cells.
  • Transpupillary thermal therapy (TTT). This technique uses a long-duration laser to generate heat to destroy the tumor.
  • Laser therapy. This treatment uses an intense beam of high-energy electrons to destroy tumor cells and prevent proliferations.
  • Cryotherapy. During this procedure, the application of extreme cold is used to destroy malignant cells.
  • Surgery. In some cases, the best course of treatment involves the surgical resection of malignant tissue and removal of the tumor. In very rare cases, surgical removal of the eye may be necessary to stop the cancer’s spread. However, this procedure is always used as a last resort.

Oncology Expertise

Accurately diagnosing and treating cancers of the eye demands the consultation, collaboration and involvement of specialists in many critical disciplines. At Illinois Retina Associates, our ocular oncology program is led by Dr. Jack Cohen. Dr. Cohen is also Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Radiation Oncology at Rush Medical College and director of Ocular Oncology Services at Rush University Medical Center.

After graduating from Rush Medical College, Dr. Cohen completed his residency at Rush University Medical Center, followed by a fellowship in ocular oncology at the University of California, San Francisco, and an additional fellowship in vitreoretinal surgery at Rush University/Ingalls Memorial Hospital.

In Dr. Cohen’s words: “Tumors of the eye are rare, but they need to be diagnosed and treated by experts in the field. There are few doctors with the training and experience to diagnose and treat this condition. That expertise combined with the broad range of medical skills and interdisciplinary approach of Illinois Retina Associates and Rush University Medical Center/Ingalls Memorial Hospital translates into the assurance you made the right medical decision.”

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