Lymph nodes are part of the body’s immune system. They are small, bean-shaped glands containing lymph – a fluid that carries the cells that fight infection around the lymphatic system.
Conjunctival melanoma can travel from the eye through the lymphatic system to one, or more, lymph nodes. Metastases are more likely to form in the lymph nodes closest to the eye. These are situated in the neck and are known as cervical lymph nodes.
Sometimes a maxilofacial surgeon may perform a sentinel node biopsy, to establish whether a conjunctival melanoma has spread to the cervical lymph nodes.
Lymph node metastases may be noticeable to a patient if the lymph node becomes hard or gets larger, but often the patient does not notice any difference. Lymph nodes can get larger for other reasons too, such as infection.
Your ocular oncologist may discover tumours in the lymph node when they physically examine you, or they may show up on a scan, such as a head and neck MRI.
Lymph node metastases may be removed surgically, or you may be offered systemic treatment.