Orbital tumors

The eyeball, extraocular muscles, optic nerve and the fat that fills the spaces in between can be affected by a tumor. In addition, cancer of the surrounding sinuses, brain, and nasal cavity may grow through the bones and invade the orbit.

Metastatic tumors may also travel to the orbit. Orbital tumors can affect both adults and children. Fortunately, in both age groups most orbital tumors are benign.

The most common benign tumors are also blood vessel tumors (hemangioma, lymphangioma and arteriovenous malformation). Tumors of the nerves (schwannoma), fat (lipoma), as well as those that evolve from thesurrounding sinuses (mucocele) occur less commonly.

Frequently, pain and prominence of the eyes can be mistakenly attributed to the growth of a tumor. Further evaluation often reveals a benign non-infectious inflammatory process termed pseudotumor (as an indication of the diagnostic confusion associated with this entity).

Alternatively the inflammation may result from a systemic process such as Graves’ thyroid disease. The most common malignant orbital tumors in adults are lymphomas. Often they are initially confined to the orbit without any systemic manifestations.

Metastatic tumors most frequently arise from the breast and prostate. Direct invasion of the orbit from the surrounding skin and sinus cavities can occur from squamous and basal cell cancers. Other malignancies that arise from tissues within the orbit are less common (hemangiopericytoma, chondrosarcoma, malignant neurofibroma).