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Eye cancers are treated by a team of specialists and doctors. This is called a multidisciplinary team approach.
The team includes an ophthalmologist or eye doctor, an oncologist, radiation oncologist or cancer specialist and others.
The primary aim of therapy is to prevent spread, stop growth and remove the tumor while trying to preserve eyesight.
This is useful in old and ill patients who have few eye symptoms and in who therapy would be more inconvenient due to side effects. Once the tumor is thicker than 2-3mm or larger than 10 mm in diameter an active therapy may be started.
Radiation uses high-energy x-rays, proton beams and gamma rays to kill the cancer.
Radiation may also be given by an external beam via a machine. Proton beam therapy uses a cyclotron that directs a proton radiation beam to the affected eye and spares the surrounding healthy tissues leading to lower side effects.
Side effects of radiation include cataracts, dry eyes, loss of hair around the eyes and eyelashes, retinal damage (retinopathy), optic nerve damage (neuropathy), glaucoma (abnormal pressure within the eye) etc. For eye lymphomas radiation to both eyes may be needed. Sometimes brain and spinal cord may also need irradiation.
Laser photocoagulation uses focussed high energy laser beams to burn the tumor tissue. It is not much used for eye melanomas but may be effective for small melanomas.
Drugs may also be injected directly into the affected eye or given via the spinal cord. In this manner, more of the drug reaches the site of the cancer. These are given in cycles of around 3 to 4 weeks. Common side effects include hair loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, infections, bleeding tendencies, bone marrow suppression, fatigue etc.
More advanced cancers may require removal of the eye or eneucleation, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In metastatic eyelid cancers chemotherapy, radiation therapy, more extensive surgery and other options may be considered. Immunotherapy and palliative care may be offered to these patients. (6)
Usually Complementary or Alternative therapies are suggested by family and friends of cancer patients. While Complementary therapy often goes alongside regular medical therapy, Alternative therapies are chosen instead of prescribed medical therapy.
Complementary therapies include meditation, stress relieving therapies and exercises, some herbal teas etc. for chemotherapy induced nausea, acupuncture etc. Some of these are harmless except for the fact that they make the patient feel better.
Alternative therapies are offered as cures for cancers and may often do more harm than good sometimes wasting precious time and allowing the cancer to grow so therapy becomes less effective.