A cancer diagnosis is a scary, stressful time for patients. Knowing that a qualified team of healthcare professionals is in your corner makes all the difference. Dean McGee Eye Institute (DMEI) offers advanced care for rare eye conditions and diseases, including ocular cancers. Dr. Brian K. Firestone leads DMEI’s oncology efforts with compassion and talent.
Ocular melanoma is the most common form of eye cancer, and approximately 2,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. Other types of eye cancer include lymphomas and hemangiomas, but both are less common than melanoma.
Ocular melanoma usually forms in the choroid part of the eye. The choroid is a part of the eye’s uveal tract. The uveal tract is a layer of tissue between the outer and inner layer of the eye. It also contains the iris and the stroma. Like melanoma in the skin, ocular melanoma is caused by mutations in pigment-producing melanocytes.
Individuals with fair skin and blue eyes have a higher risk for developing ocular melanoma. Risk also increases with age. While many believe ocular melanoma is linked to sun exposure, there is no definitive supporting evidence as of yet. Ocular melanoma is different from skin melanoma. It spreads differently and is caused by a different gene mutation.
Typically, ocular melanoma and other eye tumors are treated with radiation therapy. Treatment is usually effective in limiting the spread of the tumor. Larger tumors are more difficult, and the eye may have to be removed through enucleation. In the case of enucleation, the patient is typically given an ophthalmic implant that is covered by a prosthesis. The prosthesis is made to look identical to the remaining eye.
Metastatic disease is when cancer spreads to unrelated organs. Nearly half of ocular melanoma patients develop metastatic disease according to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation. Typically, ocular melanoma that becomes metastatic affects the liver first and spreads through the blood rather than the lymphatic system. This is why diagnosing and treating the cancer when it is still confined to the eye is so important.
Though Dr. Firestone is relatively new to DMEI, his dedication to patients and expertise make him a valued team member. A native of Oklahoma, he’s happy to bring the highest level of care to his community. He routinely performs surgery at McGee Eye Surgery Center, OU Medical Center, and the Children’s Hospital.
“I get to help patients through a real crisis in their lives,” Dr. Firestone says. “Often times these patients either had no idea there was a problem in their eye or thought they lost vision because of another eye condition. They never expected to be diagnosed with an eye cancer. I get to help them through that with compassion and confidence.”
Dr. Firestone treats adult and pediatric patients who have intraocular and periocular tumors. He also treats patients suffering from cataracts and sees other general ophthalmology patients as well. He is also actively engaged in the training of DMEI medical students and residents. Additionally, he has a specialty in pathology, which allows him to diagnose tissue. As an author, he’s written about retinoblastoma and the topic of combined hamartoma of the retina and retinal pigment epithelium.
Providing Patient Care
Dr. Firestone’s passion allows him to provide quality care to patients. DMEI physicians all aim to offer the best care possible, no matter how rare or serious a patient’s eye condition. DMEI’s facility and access to specialists means we can provide the finest eye care in the region.