Methodist University Hospital
returns Powell to cockpit
Special to the Advocate
Powell said he knew something was wrong when he started having trouble reading flight maps. “When I was trying to read one of our approach plates one night in the airplane, I could see the first letters and the last letters, but I couldn’t see the letters in between.”
The resident of
Melanoma is a condition that occurs when cells called melanocytes get too much sun, begin to grow abnormally and turn cancerous. Most people are familiar with this condition of the skin which results in skin cancer, but most people are unaware these same type of cells live inside the eye which can turn into melanoma causing eye cancer. While skin melanoma is linked to sun exposure, the cause of choroidal melanoma in not known.
“In the back of the eye, behind the seeing part of the eye which is the retina, there is a pigment layer called the choroid. The choroid supplies blood and nutrients to the eye, but it also absorbs some of the extra light that enters the eye,” explained
Symptoms vary depending on where the melanoma is located. For example, if the melanoma is positioned in the periphery of the eye, the patient may not exhibit any symptoms because the patient does not notice minor visual disturbances, such as flashing lights. A patient may notice a problem if the affected area grows large enough to detach the retina or to displace the lens in the eye distorting vision. Tumors can also occur in the area of central vision. Patients often seek treatment sooner for these tumors because they interfere with vision much sooner.
“Melanoma, that’s a scary word,” said Powell. His initial prognosis was that he wouldn’t be able to fly again. “I am very fortunate that I can continue my flying career.”
What saved his life and his eyesight is a procedure called episcelral radiation plaque therapy. Powell had the procedure performed in August 2006 at
“Teamwork is essential in the treatment of ocular cancer,” said
The plaque is actually a disc-shaped gold applicator about the size of a dime that holds radiation seeds the size of a grain of rice. The plaque is surgically placed and sewn over the area of the eye that needs to be treated and left in place for several days to deliver the appropriate dose of radiation. After the recommended dose of radiation, the plaque is removed.
A year later, two sets of blood tests and CT scans, there is not any sign of Powell’s cancer.
“Mr. Powell has had a phenomenal response to this treatment,” said
Powell’s advice: If you notice any problems with your vision, make an appointment with your optometrist or ophthalmologist and find out what is happening with your vision.