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Metastatic Tumors

Adult Ocular Oncology

Phoenix Children’s Hospital offers advanced care for adolescents and adults who have metastatic tumors, which are cancers that spread to the eye from other parts of the body.

The most common location is the back of the eye (choroid) but it can also spread to the front of the eye, including the colored iris, or tissues surrounding the eye (orbit). Some cancers are more likely to spread to your eye. The most common primary cancers that metastasize to the eye are lung tumors in men and breast cancer in women.  

At Phoenix Children’s, we understand how stressful and life-changing a cancer diagnosis can be. We work as a team to offer you full support, from diagnosis through follow-up care for your best-possible quality of life.


The most common symptom of cancer that has spread to the eye is a loss of vision. In some instances, doctors detect metastasized cancer during a routine eye exam. Other symptoms can include:

  • Light flashes
  • Shadows in your field of vision (floaters)
  • Eye redness or pain

Evaluation and Diagnosis

Doctors diagnose metastatic cancer by completing a thorough clinical examination. You may have other tests as well, including:


An ocular ultrasound is a safe test that is similar to pregnancy ultrasounds used by obstetricians. During an ultrasound of the eye, practitioners apply a cool jelly and place a vibrating probe over the eyelid. This allows doctors to see and evaluate the tumor on the ultrasound machine.

Fluorescein Angiography and Autofluorescence

During this procedure, doctors inject a fluorescent dye into your arm. The dye travels to the eye and enable them to see blood vessels inside your eye and closely evaluate tumors. This dye is different from the kind used for CT or MRI scans and will not expose you to any radiation Doctors also assess autofluorescence – the illumination of a tumor’s natural pigments – to learn more about the cancer.

Treatment of Metastatic Eye Cancer

When cancer has metastasized to the eye, our ocular oncology specialists coordinate treatment with the oncologist who is already treating your primary cancer. Treatment options include:

  • Brachytherapy (localized radiation)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Cryotherapy (freezing treatment)
  • Enucleation (removal of the eye and replacement with a prosthetic eye)
  • External radiation
  • Intravitreal chemotherapy (chemotherapy injected into the jelly of the eye)
  • Laser therapy
  • Photodynamic therapy (special kind of laser)

Many of our patients are concerned about losing an eye to cancer, but with today’s sophisticated treatment options, this is seldom necessary. In some instances, such as when vision is already lost, patients have severe eye pain or a condition becomes life-threatening, it may be an option.

Our team uses the most advanced, highly targeted therapies to protect your vision and eyes, while placing top priority on protecting your health, life and quality of life. Your care includes lifelong screening and treatment for potential recurring cancers.

Contact Us

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

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