Eye Cancer: Micro-Surgery

LOS ANGELES. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Michelle Martin’s tumor was tiny … about the size of half of a pea, but it was in the back of her eye. She had a cancer called ocular melanoma. But now, cutting-edge instruments are making all the difference in diagnosis and treatment.

Michelle Martin had just had her daughter Shelby when her doctor said the freckle on her eye was cancer and she would need surgery immediately.

Martin told Ivanhoe, “I can handle pretty much anything, anywhere else on the body. Blood doesn’t bother me. But the thought of having my eye operated on really scared me quite a bit.”

Tara McCannel, MD, PhD, Director of the Ophthalmic Oncology Center at Stein Eye Institute, UCLA told Ivanhoe, “There’s a lot of fear and apprehension to treat something that’s so close to your central vision.”

But Dr. McCannel was committed to treating Michelle with radiation and a cutting-edge biopsy to assess the cancer. She used a microscope and a micro-incisional instrument more common in retinal surgery.

Dr. McCannel explained, “This instrument that we use to take the biopsy from is about the size of a very small, very fine grain of rice going in to the tumor to get the tissue.”

The tumor cells will tell her if the cancer is aggressive. Dr. McCannel also stitched in a plaque with radiation seeds and a gold shield on the back. It all took about an hour.

“Applying the radiation, confirming the location, taking the tissue; the technical part, all happens at once,” Dr. McCannel said.

Michelle urges others to get regular eye exams; the only way to find this symptomless cancer.

Michelle and her husband, Thom, were disappointed to learn there were no support groups or places to get information about her rare cancer. Their mission now, is to set up both.