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Uveal melanoma is the most common form of eye cancer

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with uveal melanoma, you are not alone. Although it is rare, and its cause is not well understood, uveal melanoma is the most common form of eye cancer in adults in the US, with about 2,000 diagnoses each 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 people with uveal melanoma are middle-aged with fair skin, the disease can affect people of all complexions and ages.

A significant number of uveal melanoma 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 control 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 micro metastasis. The cancer can eventually move to another part of the body, usually the liver, where it is much more difficult to treat. 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 and counselors. Make sure that you ask your doctors and care team plenty of questions, seek second opinions, learn everything you can, and most of all, know your options.

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