Conjunctival Lymphoma

This entry looks at conjunctival lymphoma, also known as lymphoma of the conjunctiva, and maintained under the category 'Ocular Adnexal Lymphoma', one of the subtypes of lymphoma.

What is conjunctival lymphoma?

Conjunctival lymphoma is when lymphocytes turn cancerous in the conjunctiva, a mucous membrane that covers the whites of our eyes and the inner eyelids. Sometimes this cancer is secondary, meaning that it has reached the conjunctiva after starting elsewhere, but it is more commonly a primary cancer site. It is almost always of B-cell origin.

Lymphomas that develop in the eye (orbital lymphomas) are extremely rare, accounting for no more than one percent of all Non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHLs) and about ten percent of extra-nodal NHLs.

Symptoms of conjunctival lymphoma

Symptoms of conjunctival lymphoma include eye irritation, pain in the eye, excessive tear production, and ptosis, or a dropping eyelid.

Conjunctival lymphoma treatment and prognosis

In general, when conjunctival lymphoma develops, it is one of two types: either a MALT lymphoma or a follicular lymphoma, and therefore a disease that follows an indolent or slow-growing course. Provided the disease is discovered in its early stage, the prognosis is considered very good and is treatable and sometimes even curable with radiotherapy. Additionally, if possible sometimes surgery is used to remove the tumor.

In the case of advanced conjunctival lymphoma, systemic chemotherapy followed by localized radiation has shown to control the lymphoma, but advanced disease in these cases has a much lower 5 year relative survival percentage than those found in early stages.

Sources

Bessel EM, Henk JM, Wright JE, Whitelocke RA. Orbital and conjunctival lymphoma: Treatment and prognosis. Radither Oncol 1988;13:237-44.

Fung CY et al. Ocular Adnexal Lymphoma: Clinical behaviour of distinct World Health Organization classification of subtypes. Int J Rad Oncol Biol Phys 2003;57:1382-91.

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