Ocular oncology: a rare beast

Ocular cancers are uncommon but serious. Thankfully, there are world-class specialist centres here in the UK. Carina Bailey looks into the service they provide.

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Eye cancer in the UK is very rare: for example, malignant melanomas in the eye affect only about six individuals per million per year (Jovanovic, 2013). There are fewer than 10 consultant ocular oncologists treating adults in the UK’s four specialist ocular oncology centres in London, Sheffield, Liverpool and Glasgow. 

For children, cases of eye cancer are rarer still: of these the most common is retinoblastoma. According to Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon Professor Mandeep Sagoo, who specialises in adult and paediatric eye tumours at Moorfields, St Bartholomew’s and the Royal London hospitals, there are usually 40 to 50 confirmed cases of retinoblastoma a year (Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group, 2016), which are treated at the Royal London Hospital and Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital by five practising consultant paediatric ocular oncologists. 

Concentrated expertise ensures the best care for patients, says Mandeep: “In a few specialised centres, you can build an efficient team. It’s better to have experts concentrated in a few centres doing a lot [of eye cancer treatment] than having many centres with limited resources. It ensures each centre has a maximum range of treatments and support.”

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