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What is choroidal melanoma?

Choroidal melanoma is a collection of abnormal, pigmented cells within the choroid, which is the layer of tissue in the back of the eye between the retina and sclera (the white of the eye). Choroidal melanoma is the most common type of primary intraocular tumor in adults. Because this type of tumor occurs inside the eye, it is best detected early by a thorough annual exam of the back of the eye by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Unlike other melanomas, doctors can see the tumor through the pupil of the eye.

Most choroidal tumors grow slowly. The patient may not recognize something is wrong until his or her vision is impaired by the tumor itself or from retinal detachment or hemorrhaging due to the tumor.

Once diagnosed, ophthalmologists use ultrasonography to classify choroidal melanoma as being small, medium or large. Small tumors (2.6mm or smaller) have a 20 to 30 percent chance of growing to the point at which the only treatment is radiation or removal of the eye. In rare instances, the tumor can spread to the lungs, liver or other major organs, causing death.

Transpupillary thermotherapy (TPTT), a procedure during which an ophthalmologist uses an infrared diode laser to heat and destroy abnormal cells, is a promising new treatment for small tumors.

Media Contact: Joy H. Bell
jbell@emory.edu
404-778-3711

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