Genetic testing for eye cancer

Your doctor might examine your eye cancer to test for abnormalities of the chromosomes in the cancer cells. This is called cytogenetic testing.

Why you have it

Chromosomes are found in the centre of all cells. They are made of millions of genes. 

Cytogenetic testing gives doctors information about how your cancer is likely to behave. For example, it tells them the chances of your cancer coming back or spreading. Your doctor or specialist nurse will talk to you about this and ask if you would like to know this type of information.

This might help doctors plan your follow up care after treatment. For example, people at high risk of the cancer coming back may have more scans. At the moment, information about the genetics of your tumour doesn't affect what treatment you have but it may in the future.

If you have surgery

Your surgeon might ask a specialist doctor (pathologist) to examine the cancer after they remove it. They look for abnormalities of the chromosomes in the cancer cells.

If you don't have surgery

Your doctor might now suggest they take a sample (biopsy) of the cancer for cytogenetic testing. If you have a biopsy, you usually have it during or shortly after radiotherapy.

Your doctor will talk to you about the risks and benefits of having a biopsy.

Getting your results

You will have to wait to get the results.

Waiting for results can make you anxious. Ask your doctor or nurse how long it will take to get them. Contact the doctor who arranged the test if you haven’t heard anything after a couple of weeks.

You might have contact details for a specialist nurse and you can contact them for information if you need to. It may help to talk to a close friend or relative about how you feel.

You can also contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

  • Uveal Melanoma Guidelines
    Melanoma Focus, January 2015

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (11th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2018

  • Personalized treatment of uveal melanoma.
    B Damato and H Heimann
    Eye (London), 2013. Vol 27, Issue 2, Pages 172-9

  • Progress in the management of patients with uveal melanoma. The 2012 Ashton Lecture.
    ​B Damato
    Eye (London), 2012. Vol 26, Issue 9, Pages 1157-72

Last reviewed: 
24 Sep 2021
Next review due: 
24 Sep 2024

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