Ocular Melanoma

When you come to Winship Cancer Institute for ocular melanoma cancer treatment, you have a multidisciplinary team of experts dedicated to your well-being.

As a patient with ocular melanoma, you will benefit from access to the Emory Eye Center, a nationally ranked eye institute with a wealth of clinical expertise, groundbreaking research and treatment options for patients. 

Our multidisciplinary care teams include surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, pharmacists and advanced practice nurses with expertise in ocular melanoma.

The benefits of our multidisciplinary and highly experienced teams include:

  • Access to doctors and surgeons who rank among the top cancer experts in the world.
  • Weekly review of patient cases by the full team of experts.
  • Coordinated scheduling for appointments among various specialties.
  • Access to a nurse navigator to assist you throughout the treatment process.
  • Access to support programs and groups for you and your caregivers.
  • Availability of specific new treatment options for ocular melanoma within our clinical trials program.

Though ocular melanoma can be lethal and is fairly difficult to recognize by symptoms alone, periodic retinal examinations by an ophthalmologist have the potential to diagnose a problem at an early stage, therefore saving a patient's life.

An examination through a dilated pupil is one of the only ways that a doctor can diagnose ocular melanoma with enough time to save a patient's lAlthough a thorough eye examination by an experienced clinician is the most important procedure for detecting ocular melanoma, ancillary diagnostic testing may also be used. Ancillary diagnostic testing may include fluorescein angiography and ultrasonography.

Fluorescein angiography uses an injection of a fluorescent dye through the hand or arm to allow the photography of the blood vessels in the back of the eye. This procedure is most commonly used to confirm a diagnosis or to create guidelines for a treatment method.

Ultrasonography uses a small probe within the closed eyelid in order to bounce sound waves off of the eyeball. The reflected sound waves produce a 2D image of the interior of the eye, therefore helping a doctor to see abnormal tissues and the blood vessels in the eye.

A CT scan takes a series of detailed pictures of the eye using x-rays and a computer imaging system. These pictures allow doctors to see tumors within the orbits (eye sockets). In some cases, a dye may be injected into a vein so that the tissues are more visible in x-ray images.

An MRI uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer to create images of a targeted area such as the ocular orbits in order to see tumors and irregular tissues.

Ocular coherence tomography (OCT) is an imaging method that uses light beams and a reference mirror to reflect light on the retinal tissue in order to produce cross-sectional images of ocular tissue.

For reliable, in-depth information about cancer symptoms, staging and diagnosis, visit CancerQuest, an educational and outreach program at Emory University. 

Visit CancerQuest

The treatment method used for ocular melanoma depends not only on the size and location of the tumor (choroid, ciliary body, or iris), but also whether or not the cancer has spread.

The patient's overall health must also be taken into account. The main goals in treating ocular melanoma are to prevent the spread of the tumor and to maintain the patient's vision. The following methods of treatment may be used for the treatment of ocular melanoma:

Observation may be used for the treatment of small or slowly growing ocular tumors. It may also be the best option for those whose cancer is in their only functioning eye. If the cancer grows larger than 10mm in width or 2-3mm in height (thickness), the doctor and the patient may begin to sort through alternate treatment options.

Surgery is a common procedure for the treatment of ocular melanoma. A doctor will remove the affected parts of the eye depending on the size and spread of the tumor.

In some cases, the removal of the eye or enucleation is the only viable treatment option in order to save the patient's life. With the loss of an eye, a patient will have to work through various issues with depth perception and vision. Most patients adjust to these differences within a year.

Most patients are worried about what they may look like after the removal of an eye. There are many cosmetic options and plastic prostheses that can be used to restore a normal looking appearance.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill the cancer. Radiation therapy can be conducted using proton beams (charged particles), brachytherapy (internal radiation), or traditional external radiation. Radiation therapy is a localized therapy that treats only the area surrounding the cancer. Learn more about radiation therapy treatments and services.

There are often times many side effects to radiation therapy. Radiation to the eye can result in cataracts (cloudy eye lens), loss of eyelashes, or dry eyes. There are methods of treatment that can alleviate symptoms that result from radiation to the eye.

Laser therapy uses heat from lasers to shrink smaller tumors. This method usually has fewer side effects than surgery and radiation therapy.

Emory Eye Center physicians are involved in numerous clinical trials and studies. Being part of a major medical center allows access to collaborative studies not otherwise possible. Emory Eye Center has ongoing clinical trials for the treatment of many eye disorders and diseases.

In addition to delivering the highest quality medical care, we recognize the importance of the psychological and emotional aspects of living with a cancer diagnosis and of dealing with treatment. Our supportive oncology team addresses these issues in a timely manner with additional support from counselorsnurse navigatorsdietitians and social service professionals.

Visit Emory Eye Center

 Consider talking with your doctor about participating in a clinical trial at Winship. Through these trials, you may have access to treatments that are not widely available.

Learn More About Clinical Trials

If you have been diagnosed with ocular melanoma, we are ready to help you. Call us at 1 (888) 946-7447 or (404) 778-1900 to make an appointment or request an appointment online. Winship experts are available to provide a second opinion.

We understand that this is a very stressful time. We welcome your questions and requests for help. Learn what to expect on your first visit.

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Wendy Baer MD

  • Oncology Psychiatrist
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                                 Wendy Baer MD
Wendy Baer MD

Wendy Baer MD

  • Dr. Baer helps patients and their families deal with the stress of receiving a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment.
  • Medical Director of Psychiatric Oncology, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
  • (404) 778-1900

Chris Bergstrom MD, OD

  • Ophthalmologist
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                                 Chris  Bergstrom MD, OD
Chris Bergstrom MD, OD

Chris Bergstrom MD, OD

Elizabeth Butker MS, DABR

  • Team Member
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                                 Elizabeth Butker MS, DABR
Elizabeth Butker MS, DABR

Elizabeth Butker MS, DABR

Ian R. Crocker MD, FACR

  • Radiation Oncologist
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                                 Ian R. Crocker MD, FACR
Ian R. Crocker MD, FACR

Ian R. Crocker MD, FACR

  • Dr. Crocker has over 30 years of experience with brain and eye cancers and has developed innovative therapies for treatment.
  • Vice Chair, Department of Radiation Oncology, Emory University School of Medicine
  • (404) 778-3473

Kimberly A. Curseen MD

  • Supportive Oncologist
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                                 Kimberly A. Curseen MD
Kimberly A. Curseen MD

Kimberly A. Curseen MD

  • Board certified in Internal Medicine, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care, Dr. Curseen is the primary provider for the Supportive Oncology Clinic at Winship.
  • Director of Supportive and Palliative Care Outpatient Services , Emory Healthcare
  • (404) 778-6448

Joan Giblin NP

  • Survivorship Program
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                                 Joan  Giblin NP
Joan Giblin NP

Joan Giblin NP

  • An experienced nurse practitioner specialist with extensive patient care involvement, Ms. Giblin facilitates continued good health and quality of life for cancer survivors.
  • Survivorship Program Director, Winship Cancer Institute
  • (404) 778-1900

Hans E. Grossniklaus MD, MBA

  • Opthalmologist
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                                 Hans E. Grossniklaus MD, MBA
Hans E. Grossniklaus MD, MBA

Hans E. Grossniklaus MD, MBA

  • Dr. Grossniklaus, Director of the L.F. Montgomery Pathology Laboratory, is a distinguished researcher, physician, and expert of ophthalmology.
  • Director, Section of Ocular Oncology and Pathology, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
  • (404) 778-1900

G. Baker Hubbard III MD

  • Ophthalmologist
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                                 G. Baker Hubbard III MD
G. Baker Hubbard III MD

G. Baker Hubbard III MD

  • Dr. Hubbard specializes in vitreoretinal surgery, and his practice includes both adult and pediatric vitreoretinal disorders.
  • Thomas M. Aaberg Sr. Chair in Ophthalmology, Emory University School of Medicine
  • (404) 778-2020

Ragini Kudchadkar MD

  • Medical Oncologist
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                                 Ragini Kudchadkar MD
Ragini Kudchadkar MD

Ragini Kudchadkar MD

Colleen Lewis NP

  • Nurse Practitioner
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                                 Colleen Lewis NP
Colleen Lewis NP

Colleen Lewis NP

Beth Perlmutter MSSW, LCSW, OSW-C

  • Social Worker
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                                 Beth Perlmutter MSSW, LCSW, OSW-C
Beth Perlmutter MSSW, LCSW, OSW-C

Beth Perlmutter MSSW, LCSW, OSW-C

  • At Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital, Ms. Perlmutter works with patients of all cancer types providing resource referrals and counseling services.
  • Social Worker, Outpatient Oncology, Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital
  • (678) 843-7826

Vinita Singh MD

  • Pain Management Specialist
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                                 Vinita Singh MD
Vinita Singh MD

Vinita Singh MD

  • Dr. Singh collaborates with oncologists to provide state-of-the-art therapies to cancer patients suffering from pain symptoms.
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Emory University School of Medicine
  • (404) 686-2410