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The stage of a cancer tells you how big it is and how far it’s spread. It helps your doctor decide which treatment you need.

It is important because the stage often decides the treatment. The tests and scans you have to diagnose cancer give some information about the stage. But your doctor may not be able to tell you the exact stage until you have surgery.

Doctors use different systems to stage eye cancer. One of these is called TNM staging. This is a very detailed staging system. TNM stands for Tumour, Node, Metastasis. 

Below we have information about the stages of eye melanoma. Doctors tend to use a simple staging system for this type of eye cancer. 

Stages of melanoma of the eye (ocular melanoma)

Doctors stage eye melanoma according to the thickness and width of the tumour. They use the terms small, medium and large.

  • small – the melanoma is no more than 3 mm thick, and less than 10 mm wide
  • medium – the melanoma is between 3 and 8 mm thick, and between 10 mm and 15 mm wide
  • large – the melanoma is more than 8 mm thick, or more than 16 mm wide

Advanced stages of eye melanoma

Advanced eye melanoma means one of the following:

  • the cancer has grown into tissues around the eye
  • the cancer has come back since it was first treated

If your cancer has grown into the tissues around the eye, it is called extraocular extension. This means that the melanoma has spread into the optic nerve or the eye socket. It is a more advanced stage of cancer than if it was only inside the eyeball.

Recurrent melanoma of the eye means a melanoma that has come back after it was first treated. It may have come back in your eye or another part of your body, such as the liver.

Last reviewed: 
03 Sep 2015
  • A review of mortality from choroidal melanoma. II. A meta-analysis of 5-year mortality rates following enucleation, 1966 through 1988.
    M Diener-West and others
    Archives Ophthalmology. 1992 February, Volume 110, Issue 2, Pages 245-50.

  • Melanoma: assessment and management
    National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, July 2015

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