ABOUT CANCER IN THE EYE: Ocular melanoma -- eye cancer -- is a particularly rare and aggressive form of cancer that attacks the pigment cells in the retina. There are essentially two types of intraocular melanoma: low-grade tumors, which grow slowly and rarely metastasize, and high-grade tumors, which grow more quickly and metastasize at a very early stage. Once a tumor metastasizes, the cancer spreads quickly to the liver and other organs, and a patient has only 6 to 12 months to live in the worst cases, although some can survive for as long as 5 years. The National Eye Institute estimates some 2,000 newly diagnosed cases of ocular melanoma occur per year in the United States and Canada --roughly seven in one million people. It affects people of all ages and races, and is not hereditary. Ocular melanoma kills nearly half of those who develop it.
ABOUT THE RETINA: We can see because light reflects off objects in our surroundings and enters the eye through the pupil. The light is then focused and inverted by the cornea and the lens, and projected onto the back of the eye. There we find the retina, which is lined with a series of photoreceptors that convert the light signal into an electrical signal. Ganglion cells then transmit those signals to the brain via the optic nerve.