The state continues to mourn the death of former Governor Kathleen Blanco who passed away from an Ocular Melanoma that she’d been fighting for eight years.

LSU Health New Orleans Retina Specialist Maria Reinoso says it’s a tragic cancer, but a rare one that only impacts a small percentage of the population.

“One in 200,000 will get this malignancy, so it is a rare malignancy, but it is the most common entropic malignancy in adults.”

Reinoso says people with light-colored eyes, fair skin, and northern European ancestry are more prone to the disease so get yourself to a doctor if you start to experience these symptoms. “Having blurry vision, distorted vision, photopsia which is having flashing lights, or floaters little black spots floating around. You can also have a visual field deficit is what we call it, which is having a dark spot in the periphery of your vision.”

The cancer arises in pigmented cells in the uvea and forms a pigmented mass in the layer of the eye just behind the retina.

There’s a number of factors that can determine the prognosis for those diagnosed with the cancer. Reinoso says the most important factor, like all cancer, is catching it early.

“The longer the tumor is in the eye the more it is going to grow, and the prognosis is going to be worse. Prognosis also varies depending on the location of the tumor.”

Reinoso says the best way to stay ahead of any potential eye diseases is yearly dilated eye exams.

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