By: Dr. Thomas Incledon
Why does ocular melanoma spread to the liver?
While ocular melanoma is a rare cancer overall, it is the most common eye cancer. Even more staggering is that approximately 50% of people diagnosed with this type of cancer will have metastatic disease and, in 95% of those cases, the liver is the first organ affected by the eye cancer cells.
The reason for this is purely scientific. Melanoma spreads through the circulatory system, not the lymphatic system like with other types of cancer. The liver’s job is to clean the blood, so in patients with ocular melanoma, the liver takes in cancer cells as it works and develops secondary tumors. Oncologists will perform blood tests, as well as use diagnostic tools such as x-rays and CT scans to determine if a patient’s ocular melanoma has traveled beyond the eye.
Once ocular melanoma spreads or metastasizes, the outcome for patients is fairly poor. According to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation, median survival time after metastasis is 2-8 months without treatment. “People who undergo treatment have much more time than that,” says Dr. Tom Incledon, Founder & CEO of Causenta. “Even with more common cancers, no one can know how long you will live or not.” Incledon recommends that patients with ocular melanoma focus on how they are going to get the right treatment for what is happening in their individual bodies. “Think about how you feel and is your cancer care team using objective ways to test those feelings to ensure treatment is working.”
Because ocular melanoma is so rare, there is limited research available for doctors to look at when developing treatment strategies for patients. The team at Causenta is committed to trying complementary strategies like exercise and nutrition plans to help patients fight cancer and feel their best throughout the journey.
They also consider varied medical strategies in order to help people get the right medications sooner. “After thoroughly examining a patient’s case, we will often recommend a medication or protocol that is a standard treatment for a different type of cancer,” says Incledon. “We are sure patients understand that we have reason – whether it is genetic markers or cancer cells showing characteristics of another type of cancer – to use a drug not associated with ocular melanoma to treat them.”
Regardless of the treatment options you choose, there are complications with ocular melanoma that can be lasting, even for patients who win the battle with cancer. Patients can develop glaucoma, which is caused by pressure within the eye and leads to pain. If surgery is performed to remove the cancer, patients can have full or segmented vision loss; the cranial nerves that control the muscles around the eye can also lose some or all function. If the ocular melanoma spreads beyond the eye, depending on where it travels, it can be very complicated to treat. While it most often affects the liver, there have been cases of metastasis in the brain, which is especially tricky to treat.
If you are interested in learning more about ocular melanoma and treatment options with Causenta, contact us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation today.