Eye Cancer

Although eye cancer is rare, experts at MUSC Health Storm Eye Institute offer extensive experience. Our team is one of the few in South Carolina delivering specialized care that can save your life and preserve your vision.

Eye Cancer Care: Why Choose Storm Eye Institute?

We offer eye cancer care you can’t find elsewhere in the state:

  • Specialized Care: Storm Eye is the only program in South Carolina where you receive care from a dedicated eye cancer specialist (ocular oncologist). Our expert is board-certified in ophthalmology and has completed additional eye cancer training for both children and adults. This level of expertise offers you specialized care that’s only available in the country’s leading eye cancer programs.
  • Team Approach: Storm Eye is one of the country’s few programs offering a team approach to treating cancer in and around the eye. Our team, which includes retina specialists and pediatric ophthalmologists, works together to deliver all the latest eye cancer treatments in one setting. Find out more about pediatric ophthalmology
  • Range of Experts: We work with experts from other MUSC Health programs, including our nationally recognized cancer center. Our coordinated approach helps you get the best possible care for treating cancer and preserving eyesight. Find out more about the Hollings Cancer Center

What is Eye Cancer?

Cancer occurs when cells start growing out of control, forming clusters, or tumors. Cancer sometimes begins in the eye. More often, it develops in another part of the body (often the breast or lung) before spreading to the eye. Eye cancers can affect vision and eyesight in several ways, and can threaten your life if not treated.

Tumors may form on the:

  • Eye socket, which is the opening in the skull that holds the eyes.
  • Eyelid or outer parts of the eye.
  • Inside the eye, including the retina and nerves.
  • Structures that support the eye, such as the tear (lacrimal) glands.
  • Surface of the eye, where squamous cell carcinoma can develop.

Eye Cancer Treatments

We offer a broad range of treatments, including surgical and nonsurgical options, to help preserve eyes and eyesight. The treatment that’s best for you depends on the type of cancer and its location.

Your treatment may include:

Intra-Arterial Chemotherapy

We are the only program in the Carolinas with the expertise necessary to deliver intra-arterial chemotherapy. This innovative treatment uses cancer-fighting drugs (chemotherapy) to shrink tumors while limiting exposure to powerful and potentially toxic medications.

With traditional chemotherapy, drugs must travel throughout the body before reaching the tumor. With intra-arterial chemotherapy, we access the tumor and deliver treatment through blood vessels in the back of the eye. This approach dramatically increases the chances of saving your eye.

Intravitreal Chemotherapy

We are the only program in South Carolina that treats tumors by injecting chemotherapy into the eye. During intravitreal chemotherapy, we inject cancer-fighting drugs into the fluid-filled center of the eye.

We use this treatment for children with cancer of the retina (retinoblastoma) and for adults with lymphoma. The intravitreal approach delivers treatment directly to the cancer, which may help you avoid additional treatments such as radiation. 

Chemotherapy Eye Drops

We are one of a few programs in South Carolina offering chemotherapy eye drops. This treatment targets cancers on the front surface of the eye, such as squamous cell carcinoma. The drops destroy cancer cells and shrink the tumor, which helps many patients avoid surgery.

Targeted Radiation

We were the first program in South Carolina offering targeted radiation for melanoma in the eye. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that can develop in the eye. Radiation uses radioactive substances to destroy cancer cells.

Standard radiation therapy exposes the entire eye to high-energy beams of radiation, increasing the risk of vision loss. During targeted radiation, we place a disc with radioactive material on the tumor. The disc delivers radioactive materials directly to the tumor, which may preserve your eyesight.

We partner with MUSC Health radiation oncologists to coordinate treatments and meet your unique needs. Find out more about radiation oncology.

Mohs Surgery

For cancers that form on the eyelid, we work alongside MUSC Health dermatologists to remove the tumor using Mohs micrographic surgery. Our team includes internationally renowned experts who have performed thousands of Mohs procedures. This level of expertise translates to a superior level of care. Find out more about dermatological surgery and Mohs surgery.

Mohs is among the most precise and effective skin cancer treatments. This treatment works by removing tumors layer by layer. We examine each layer under a microscope to ensure that we get every last bit of cancer. This approach lowers the risk of the cancer coming back while also preserving nearby healthy tissue.

Oculoplastic Surgery

Treatments to save your life can sometimes affect the function and appearance of your eye. Our oculoplastic surgeons repair damaged eye structures, such as the eyelids or eye socket, and improve eye function after cancer treatment.

Our ocular oncologist and oculoplastic surgeon work together to help you achieve exceptional results. You will see both doctors together to help plan your treatment. We often perform cancer treatment and oculoplastic surgery in the same procedure. Find out more about oculoplastic and reconstructive surgery.

Laser Surgery

In laser surgery, beams of light energy replace hand-held surgical instruments. Laser surgery offers a high degree of precision, which helps preserve nearby healthy tissue. We typically use laser surgery for small tumors. For larger tumors, we may combine laser surgery with other treatments, such as radiation.

Laser surgery for eye cancer may include:

  • Panretinal Photocoagulation (PRP): This treatment cuts off the tumor’s blood supply by shrinking nearby blood vessels.
  • Transpupillary Thermal Therapy (TTT): During TTT, we use lasers to destroy cancer cells.