Chances are you or someone you know has had laser eye surgery to
correct blurry vision. Now, doctors are using the procedure in a new way. In some cases,
they’re not just helping patients see better, they’re actually preventing them from going blind.
Mike Samogala says he’s never taken time with his kids for granted. Lately, those moments
have meant even more. Just a few months ago, Mike was diagnosed with eye cancer. It came
with no warning or symptoms.
“There was nothing. I mean, you just, every year you get your eyes examined and you can tell
when you need your glasses or contacts changed, and that’s what it was like,” says Samogala.
Because there are so few treatment options, Mike lost his eye to cancer. But doctors hope to
prevent that in other patients by using a very common, very proven approach.
“Laser may be used for very early, very thin melanomas that are not near the optic nerve.
These patients require closer follow up, but if the laser is used they can preserve 100% of their
vision in many cases,” says Tom Olencki, MD, with Ohio State University’s James Cancer
Dr. Olencki says that’s a vast improvement over some of the options in the past. Most patients
either lost the eye, or underwent more extensive radiation treatments. Catching the tumor early
could mean something as simple as a few minutes under the laser. And it could mean more
than just saving a patient’s eyesight, it could save their lives.
“Many times if the eye melanoma is discovered while it’s still small and thin, we can almost
assure patients long-term survival,” says Olencki.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes eye cancer, but it may have something to do with eye color. His
pale blue eyes may have put Mike more at risk.* Eye cancer is rare, affecting only about 2,000
people each year.** Doctors believe exposing the eyes to direct, bright sunlight and smoking
may be risk factors. Experts say you should get your eyes checked by age 50, especially if you
notice a change in your vision.
*Risk Factors for Primary Intraocular Melanoma, American Cancer Society. Retrieved April 2008 from cancer
**Cancer Facts & Figures 2008, American Cancer Society. Retrieved April 2008 from cancer keywords:
cancer rates 2008
Ohio State University