Optic Nerve Tumors

Optic nerve tumors are growths that occur on the optic nerve. The majority of these tumors are benign, but some are highly malignant and can be very dangerous if left untreated.  

There are several specific types of optic nerve tumor, the most common of which include the following:
  • Glioma 
    • Often presents in childhood and is usually benign with a very slow progression
    • Although less common in adults, it is typically malignant when it does occur. The cancer spreads rapidly to invove both eyes, with progressive vision loss and death
  • Meningioma , usually presents in adulthood, the most frequently malignant optic nerve tumor
  • Melanocytoma, usually occur in older individuals --  made of melanin or melanin producing cells, usually benign   

Symptoms and Diagnosis
You may experience progressive vision loss, most often in only one eye and starting with the peripheral vision. If the optic has grown it may displace the eye from its socket and your eyeball may bulge out, or protrude. The diagnosis is often made on the basis of magnetic resonance imaging or high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scanning. However, the different types of cancers that can occur may resemble each other on imaging studies, and the definitive diagnosis may not be made until a pathologist examines a sample of the tumor under a microscope. 

Treating Optic Nerve Tumors
For many patients with benign tumors, no treatment is necessary . Our doctors at Houston Methodist regularly monitor the condition of any patient found to have even a benign tumor and will intervene if needed.   In other cases, immediate action may be necessary. This is especially likely in cases of meningioma or adult onset glioma where radiation therapy  or surgery  may be needed. 

At Houston Methodist an interdisciplinary team of doctors, including neurologists, ophthalmologists and oncologists, work together to ensure the highest quality of patient care.

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