Cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases in America, and unfortunately, it is also one of the most prominent. Not only is cancer difficult to fight, but the side effects of cancer can be difficult to deal with, compounding the issues that arise from the cancer itself. One of the areas of the body affected by both cancer and it’s treatment are the eyes. But if you know the side effects and how to deal with them, you can prevent vision loss.
Cancer and Your Eyes
The type of cancer you are diagnosed with determines just how your eyes may be affected. Knowing the dangers of your specific type of cancer to your eyes can better help you to avoid vision issues and loss. It can also help you to pinpoint topics to discuss with your doctor and eye health specialist.
Individuals with skin cancer are at risk for attacks on their eyelids. Eye health professionals note that individuals who have been diagnosed with skin cancer are at a greater risk for the development of eye melanoma, a form of serious skin cancer that affects the eyes and can cause vision loss. Skin cancer can also cause cancer to spread to the cornea and conjunctiva. This may be spotted by a red, pigmented, or white lesion on the surface of the eye. Eye melanoma can be spotted as a pigmented area on the eyelid.
In addition to cancer, or cancer symptoms that arise on the eyelid, other forms of cancer can occur on the eyes. Eye cancer may be difficult to spot because it is generally painless, but it can greatly affect vision.
One of the reasons cancer is so deadly is because it has the ability to metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body. Individuals diagnosed with lymphoma can see their cancer spread to the eyes. Lymphoma of the eyes generally manifests within the vitreous, or the jelly sort of substance found in the back of the eyes. A spread of lymphoma to the eyes is signaled by persistent inflammation of the vitreous area, or by thick eye floaters in the field of vision.
In addition to the seriousness of a spread to the eyes, if eye lymphoma is left untreated, it can spread to the brain. A regular eye exam can spot these symptoms, and can assist in preventing the spread of lymphoma to the brain. If symptoms of eye lymphoma is detected, your doctor will request an MRI to ensure that the brain has not been affected.
Breast Cancer, Lung Cancer, and Colon Cancer
Like lymphoma, cancers of the breast, lungs, and colon can also metastasize into the eyes. In fact, these three forms of cancer are the most commonly seen cancers that do spread to the eyes. And, one of the scariest parts about their ability to do this is that the spread can occur even with the cancer in remission.
For patients with lung cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer, monitoring vision changes is extremely important. Furthermore, getting regular check-ups by an experienced ophthalmologist can help to spot both vision changes and eye symptoms before the cancer reaches an advanced stage. These cancers generally manifest as tumors inside the eye, affecting vision and risking total vision loss in the affected eye.
Leukemia can also affect the eyes, and generally presents as bleeding or damaged blood vessels of the retina. In some cases, a mass may be found behind the eye, and this can affect vision. Like patients of other forms of cancer, leukemia patients are encouraged to monitor their vision carefully, as well as have regular, extensive eye examinations.
Cancer Treatment and Your Eyes
We wish we could tell you that cancer of the eye, and metastasis of other forms of cancer, were all you had to worry about, unfortunately, they aren’t. In addition to the vision problems that cancer can cause, cancer treatments also have the ability to affect the eyes.
Chemotherapy is the primary treatment used in the fight against cancer, and it is also well-known to affect the eyes. The two most common side effects of cancer treatment include the advancement of existing cataracts and chronic dry eye. A decrease in vision may also be caused, or may be the result of further complications of dry eye and/or cataracts.
Patients receiving chemotherapy are encouraged to seek the assistance of an eye health professional to monitor their eye health and promptly examine any vision changes, eye pain, and the care of dry eye.
Radiation, another common form of cancer treatment, is also well-known for its effect on the eyes. Radiation treatments that occur near the eyes can result in inflammation of the skin, cornea, and conjunctiva. Bleeding from the retina can also occur. Because bleeding is not only problematic for vision, and because it can also be the symptom of a larger issue, patients should report any and all problems to their primary care provider.
Promoting Eye Health and Wellness During Cancer and Cancer Treatment
Cancer of the eyes, and complications resulting from cancer are a very serious, and very real issue. While there is no guarantee against cancer, there are a lot of preventative measures you can take to protect yourself and your eyes.
One of the most highly recommended cancer prevention methods is the regular use of antioxidants. Antioxidants work to prevent cell damage, as well as repair it. Because cancers start as irregular cells that divide and spread, regular consumption of antioxidant-containing supplements, and antioxidant-rich foods, can help your body to fight against cell damage and cell irregularities. Furthermore, regular supplementation of vitamins and minerals encourages both eye and overall health, assisting the body and its immune system to fight against cancer and cancer-causing agents you’re exposed to.
Another important prevention measure is wearing protective gear. This includes wearing sunscreen to protect the skin, wearing hats to cover the face from sun exposure and shade the eyes, and wearing 100% UV protectant eye wear. These measures are important for everyone, but are especially important for individuals with light colored eyes and fair skin.