Two women raise awareness for rare eye cancer

May is melanoma awareness month. But it’s not just skin cancer people need to worry about. And only we spoke with two local survivors of a rare condition, as they send out a warning to everyone.

“Most people with ocular melanoma don’t have any symptoms,” Carol Frattura said. “I was devastated. I had never heard of the disease.”

Frattura was diagnosed with ocular melanoma on Halloween 2017 — cancer of the eye.

“I didn’t know what to say or what to do,” Fratura said.

Frattura connected with nonprofit A Cure In Sight.

“We’re trying to save lives,” volunteer Loren Seaman said.

Seaman is an advocate for the nonprofit and a survivor of ocular melanoma. She was diagnosed with the disease in 2001.

Both Frattura and Seaman are working to help other people catch the cancer before it’s too late. And they’re doing it through eye-patch parties. They recently hosted one in Naples.

“We want them to get a comprehensive eye exam with dilation,” Seaman said.

It happens when a tumor starts to grow like a mushroom-shaped mass inside the eye.

“Like any type of cancer, OM has the risk of spreading to other parts of the body,” said Dr. Tara McCannel, director of ophthalmic oncology at UCLA health.

If the disease is not monitored, it can begin to target the liver first. The disease is rare, however, found in only six people per million in the U.S. every year.

“It’s pretty scary,” Seaman said.

The two women are proof that it’s possible to overcome the cancer when a person develops it. You can survive, but being proactive is very important.

“Without dilating your eyes, the doctor cannot find those problems,” Frattura said.

McCannel said the majority of documented cases are found in people with blue or green eyes and people with fair skin.

About 2,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. every year, and there’s no cure if it spreads.

So it’s recommended to get your eyes checked. We asked if wearing sunglasses helps prevent or protect from ocular melanoma. The Melanoma Research Foundation said it is still working to figure out how big of a role the sun plays as a risk factor for eye cancer. To be safe, wear sunglasses.

RELATED: MRF – Ocular Melanoma 

Reporter:Channing Frampton
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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