The orbit is that cone-shaped, boney space located on either side of the nose that surrounds and protects the eye and delicate muscles, nerves, and fat that are present behind the eye. Many problems can occur in this area as a result of genetic, inflammatory, infectious, traumatic, and aging issues. A number of different tumors can occur here as well.

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What Is An Orbital Tumor?

The eyes are distinct organs located within our skulls, but around the eyes are complex layers of nerves, tissue, muscles, blood vessels, and skin. All of these different components work together to not only allow us to move our eyes without moving our head, but even express our emotions through blinking, winking, arching eyebrows, or partially closing our eyelids.

Tumors can occur in two areas in this part of the head. An ocular tumor is a tumor found within the eyes themselves. Orbital tumors, however, are tumors that are found in other parts of the head surrounding the eyes. The eye area, or the nerves, or the vascular system, or even the bone may be affected by tumors, in which case they are categorized as orbital tumors.

The Diagnosis

Before any treatment can occur, it is important to understand the exact nature of the orbital tumor. Considerations such as the size of the tumor, its location, and whether the tumor is benign or malignant must all be determined through a careful medical evaluation.

In some cases, a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may be able to provide sufficient data for a diagnosis about the tumor. In other cases, a surgical biopsy may be required. A surgical biopsy is when tissue from the tumor is surgically removed, and that sample is then analyzed with a microscope and other scientific instruments.

Orbital Tumor Types

Orbital tumors can form in many different anatomical systems. The most common orbital tumor types are:

  • Osteomas:

    Occurring in the bone surrounding the eye

  • Sarcomas:

    Occurring in the fatty tissue, or the muscle

  • Hemangiomas/Lymphangiomas:

    Occurring in the vascular/circulatory system

  • Fibrous histiocytomas:

    Occurring in the embryonic cells and thus more common in children

  • Retinoblastoma:

    A form of ocular cancer that occurs directly on the retina and is more common in children

Orbital tumors can occur as a direct result of some portion of the orbital area developing cancer. Alternatively, it can be a side-effect of cancer spreading from some other part of the body and reaching the orbital area.


Depending on the type of cancer, the size of it, and whether it is benign or malignant, there are a variety of different possible treatments to manage the tumor. In some cases, especially if the tumor is benign and easily accessed, simple surgery to remove the tumor will be enough to stop the growth and prevent cancer from recurring.

In other cases, however, other forms of cancer treatment, such as chemo or radiation therapy, may be required. All of this is contingent on the exact diagnosis that is formed after a careful examination.

Preparing For Surgery

If it is determined that a surgical procedure is the best approach for your orbital tumor, you should observe the following recommendations before surgery. Health “Honesty”: Give a complete accounting of your medical conditions when asked, as some may affect the surgical process.

Medication Disclosure:

It is important to be honest about which medications or other substances you are currently taking as there may be interactions between some substances and the anesthesia or other medications required during the surgery.

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