Mysterious Eye Cancer Cases in Auburn Confirmed Uveal Melanoma

Posted by: West Georgia Eye Care Center in Frontpage Article on February 19, 2018

Uveal Cancer is rare. In fact, the risk is five in one million and that may sound like nothing to worry about.  Risks are even lower if you are young.  Most cases of the rare condition are in patients over the age of 60.  So why are young people in Auburn, Alabama being diagnosed in numbers that far exceed the averages?  That is the question that experts are trying to answer.

18 documented cases of the eye cancer have been reported in Auburn in the past few years. Three of those were Auburn University students who were associated with one another and two others worked on the campus during the same specific time.  For a very rare disease usually seen in the elderly those numbers seem more than circumstantial.

The Uvea is a name given to three structures of the eye: the Iris, Ciliary and Choroid. Melanoma cancer may begin in any one of these structures and then spread to the others.  Like melanoma found in more common parts of the body such as the skin, the risk is that if undetected and untreated it can spread to other parts of the body.  Uveal Melanoma can spread to the liver where the outcome can be fatal.

The outermost part of the uvea is the iris, the colored part of the eye, and is what you see in when you look in the mirror. It is the part of the eye that is blue, brown, green or another combination of colors.  New, pigmented (darker) areas on the iris, which may look like freckles or spots, are something that should be evaluated by an Eye MD.  Most commonly they will only be freckles and will be benign or harmless.  Very rarely they may indicate something much more serious like uveal cancer.  Only an eye doctor can tell you if you need special tests to determine the difference and early detection is critical.

Early detection is important! Uveal cancer must be treated in a timely manner and sometimes that means reconstruction of the eye.  The goal is not always to save vision but to save the patient’s life.  At West Georgia Eye Care Center we have the region’s only oculoplastic surgeon, Dr. Sterling Cannon, M.D.  He is fellowship trained as an expert in the detailed surgery required treating uveal cancer.  WTVM,  News Leader  9  will be airing a segment with Dr. Cannon on the warning signs for early detection.  Check our Facebook page for more information.  Dr. Cannon is one of the reasons that when it comes to eye treatment that can save your life, it matters who you see!