Eye cancer: Microsurgery

Published: Feb. 19, 2016 at 1:03 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 20, 2016 at 1:34 AM EST
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LOS ANGELES (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -- 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. Now, cutting-edge instruments are making all the difference in diagnosis and treatment.

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

She says, "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 says, "There's a lot of fear and apprehension treating something that's so close to your central vision."

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

Dr. McCannel explains, "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 says.

Martin urges others to get regular eye exams- the only way to find this symptomless cancer.

Martin 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.

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