Objective: To determine if patients diagnosed as having metastatic uveal melanoma before the onset of symptoms experience more favorable survival outcomes than patients diagnosed after the onset of symptoms.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study was performed among 90 patients who were diagnosed as having metastatic uveal melanoma after proton beam irradiation by routine surveillance testing (asymptomatic group) compared with 259 patients who were diagnosed as having metastatic uveal melanoma after development of symptoms (symptomatic group). The median survival times and cumulative rates of melanoma-related death after diagnosis of metastasis were compared between the 2 groups.
Results: No differences were noted between groups in known prognostic factors for melanoma-related death, including age and tumor size. Cumulative rates of melanoma-related death were higher for patients in the symptomatic group vs the asymptomatic group (P < .001, log-rank test) owing to differences in mortality observed in the first year after diagnosis of metastasis (87.8% vs 68.5%). By the second year after diagnosis of metastasis, cumulative rates had reached 90% or higher in both groups. The median time to melanoma-related death after primary tumor diagnosis was 40.6 months in the asymptomatic group vs 45.1 months in the symptomatic group (P = .61).
Conclusion: Presymptomatic detection of metastatic uveal melanoma by routine surveillance testing seems to confer a survival advantage only in the first year after diagnosis of metastasis, which is likely because of lead-time bias.