Skip to main content

COVID-19 Advisory: Visitor restrictions are in place for all Phoenix Children’s locations. Masks are required for all visitors and for patients ages 2+. For more information, visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.

Conjunctival Tumors

Adult Ocular Oncology

Phoenix Children’s Hospital offers skilled and specialized care for adolescents and adults who have conjunctival tumors. This type of cancer affects the conjunctiva – a thin membrane covering the surface of the eye.

Conjunctival cancer can include:

  • Conjunctival melanoma – Melanomas grow in melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, giving skin its color. Although melanoma usually affects the skin, it can develop on or in your eye. Conjunctival melanoma affects the surface of the eye or the inner eyelid.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – This type of cancer usually develops on the protective squamous cell layers of the skin. However, it can also occur on conjunctival tissue covering the white outer part of your eyeball and the inner eyelid.  

There is no known cause of conjunctival tumors, but individuals with fair skin and light-colored eyes, excessive UV light exposure or advanced age may be more at risk.

Evaluation and Diagnosis

Eye cancer may not have any symptoms, especially in its early stages. Regular eye checkups can help detect conjunctival tumors or other eye cancers early when they are most treatable.

Tell your doctor if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms. Notify an ophthalmologist right away if you have any sudden changes in your eyes or vision.

Symptoms of Conjunctival Melanoma

Early signs of melanoma of conjunctival eye tissue include:

  • Dark spot or discoloration on your eye
  • Raised area on the eye with little or no color
  • Brown or pink bumps on your eye

Diagnosing conjunctival melanoma involves a complete eye exam, health and medical history, and other testing, such as a biopsy, to confirm a diagnosis of eye cancer.

Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell eye cancer usually grows on the surface of the eye or inner eyelid, but can also grow into or around your eye. It tends to grow more slowly than other types of eye cancer. Symptoms of squamous cell eye cancer include:

  • Red or irritated eye surface
  • Irritated area around your eye
  • Feeling like there is something in your eye
  • Growth on surface of your eye


As with any cancer, early treatment is the key to preventing complications of metastases, or spreading, to other parts of the body.

Melanoma Treatment

Eye melanoma is extremely rare, but can spread quickly through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body. Early diagnosis and treatment are especially important to prevent a life-threatening condition.

A typical treatment plan for melanoma includes:

  • Surgery
  • Cryotherapy (freezing treatment)
  • Chemotherapy

Conjunctival Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment

Although squamous cell carcinoma is usually a slow-growing cancer, it can invade other tissues near or beyond the eye and become more difficult to treat.

Doctors typically treat squamous cell carcinoma with:

  • Surgery
  • Local or topical chemotherapy
  • Cryotherapy (freezing treatment)

The adult ocular oncologists at Phoenix Children’s Hospital will evaluate your condition and talk about the best care plan for you, including education about your condition, treatment goals and ongoing follow-up care for your best-possible results.

Visit us online for referrals or to schedule an appointment or call 602-933-5437.

Share this page