The most common primary eye cancer in adults, yet still quite rare, ocular melanoma is also called intraocular melanoma. It is a cancer of the melanin-producing cells (melanocytes) in the eye. These melanin-producing cells are found in the tissue covering the eye (conjunctiva) and inside the eye in the vascular support tissue (uveal tract). Typically occurring in patients after the age of 40, the tumor may metastasize from the eye with the most common site being the liver.
Tumors in the eyes resist treatment more than melanomas on the skin, and early identification and treatment is essential. Prior to the use of the gamma knife, patients with ocular melanomas were offered the treatment options of radiotherapy (charged particle or brachytherapy), surgery to remove the tumor, or removal of the eye (enucleation).
With the advent of gamma knife radiosurgery, patients now have a well-tolerated, eye-preserving alternative treatment that requires only one visit.