Eye (opthalmic) Cancer

What is eye cancer?

Eye cancer is when cells inside or around your eye grow in an uncontrolled way and form a tumour. There are different types of cancer that can affect the eye and the structures around the eye (for example eyelid, eyebrow, etc). The most common type of cancer affecting the eye is melanoma. Eye melanoma grows from abnormal cells inside the eye. Melanoma can grow in the choroid (layer at the back of eye), the iris (the coloured part of the front of the eye) and the ciliary body (the edge of the iris). Other types of eye cancers (non-melanoma) can develop from the conjunctiva (translucent layer covering the eye) or the skin structures around the eye.

How is eye cancer treated?


Eye melanoma is commonly treated with plaque radiotherapy. This is where a small radioactive metal disc is stitched to the surface of the eye where the melanoma is. The eye doctors do the procedure under general anaesthetic (you’ll be put to sleep for this).

The radioactive disc stays inside the eye for 3 to 5 days. During this time the nurses on Ward 1C at the Gartnavel General Hospital will look after you. The eye doctors then remove the disc from the eye in theatre under general anaesthetic. The eye doctors will see you in the clinic 4 to 6 weeks after to check the health of your eye. The treatment can take up to 6 months to work.


Non-melanoma eye cancers can be treated with surgery and/or external beam radiotherapy. The eye doctors do surgery. The clinical oncologists are responsible for external beam radiotherapy which is a treatment with radiation (Xrays). A machine outside the body targets the radiations to the cancer cells.

Before radiotherapy, you’ll be fitted with a plastic mask which is used to keep your face in the correct position for radiotherapy. A CT scan is then performed to localise precisely your eye cancer. Radiotherapy can be given in one or multiple consecutive sessions depending on the type of cancer and its position.

Who’ll be involved in my care?

The clinical oncology team at the Beatson is responsible for radiotherapy and works very closely with the Scottish Ocular Oncology Service which is responsible for surgical procedures and is based at Gartnavel General Hospital.

The team at the Beatson is composed by:

Clinical Oncologists

  • Dr D Ritchie
  • Dr S Schipani 0141 301 7060

Clinical Nurse Specialist

  • Karen Sime 0141 301 7613


Medical Physicists


Out-patient Nursing Staff

You will meet many different members of our nursing staff during your appointments to clinic. They work closely with your doctor and help prepare you for any examinations or tests you may have. They can offer advice, care and treatment on many problems associated with treatment such as radiotherapy skin reactions, open wounds and infections.


Our pharmacies specialise in cancer drug treatment and support our medical and nursing staff in all aspects of chemotherapy and drug prescription. They can offer advice on any questions or concerns about your medications or chemotherapy and any effects they may have.

Where will I be treated?

You can receive plaque radiotherapy or surgery at Gartnavel General Hospital (Tel. 0141 211 2934).

You can receive external beam radiotherapy at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre (Tel. 0141 301 7072).


Meet the Eye Team

Dr Stefano Schipani Dr Stefano Schipani
Dr Diana Ritchie Dr Diana Ritchie
Clinical Nurse Specialist
Karen Sime Karen Sime

For further information on eye cancer

Please feel free to visit the Scottish Ocular Oncology Service website at www.nhsggc.org.uk

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