Eye Cancer: Saving sight with 24k gold

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:
Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash

About 100,00 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with melanoma this year.

You’ve heard about the unusual moles to check for on your body but, did you know melanoma can happen in your eyes?

Twenty years ago, standard treatment would be to remove the affected eye but now, doctors are using gold to save sight by sowing the seeds of hope.

Tiki Dickerson finds peace with her plants, her big rescue cat, Emmitt, her trick blue healer, Angus, and her bird, Simon. They, along with her husband, gave her comfort when her doctor told her she had cancer.

“My doctor said to me, ‘Tiki, I’ve never seen this before and I’m concerned’,” Dickerson mentioned.

Tiki went to the ophthalmologist when she accidentally got eye cream in her right eye.

“The doctor said, ‘I’m not concerned about your right eye, I’m more concerned about your left’,” Dickerson continued.

Dr. Gibran Khurshid, an ocular oncologist and retina specialist at the University of Florida spotted a tiny bubble in Dickerson’s other eye.

After surviving breast cancer 12 years ago, Dickerson now faced a diagnosis of melanoma.

Ophthalmologists at the University of Florida used gold to save Dickerson’s eye.

“Gold is used because it doesn’t allow the radiation to scatter. It makes it more precise,” Dr. Khurshid explained.

The gold is used to make a radioactive iodine plaque, sewn onto the surface of the eye. The radioactive seeds inside are half the size of a grain of rice.

“Those seeds are embedded in a mesh and placed on the underside of that plaque,” Dr. Khurshid further explained.

The gold stays sewn onto the eye for four days and is then removed.

Tiki’s melanoma is gone but she’s dealing with some painful side effects.

“Every single day, it feels like a sunburn in my eye, or my eye is being held open with a fan blowing on it,” Dickerson said.

Although painful, her eyesight was preserved, her life saved, and you can bet her furry friends are helping her heal.

Dickerson will be checked for melanoma every three months for a year. Her siblings were also told to be checked as this type of melanoma is genetic.

The best candidates for this treatment are people with small to medium-sized tumors located towards the front of the eye and who also have good vision.

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