Carcinomas of the lacrimal drainage system

Surv Ophthalmol. 2020 Nov-Dec;65(6):691-707. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2020.04.001. Epub 2020 Apr 15.


Malignant tumors of epithelial origin are the most frequent neoplasms of the lacrimal drainage system (LDS). A total of 539 cases are reported in the literature from 1960 to 2019. LDS carcinoma is a disease of the middle-aged and elderly population, with a median age at diagnosis of 57 years. Overall, there is a slight male predominance. Reported risk factors are chronic inflammation, LDS papilloma, and infection with oncogenic viruses. Symptoms of an LDS carcinoma resemble those of benign, inflammatory diseases, with epiphora from obstruction of the LDS as the most frequently encountered symptom. The median time from symptoms to diagnosis is 12 months and even longer for patients reporting epiphora as the only initial symptom. This diagnostic delay leads to a substantial fraction of patients with locally advanced tumors and lymph node spread at the time of diagnosis. Surgery with adjuvant radiotherapy is the treatment of choice for most patients; however, the extension and aggressiveness of the disease and the patient's general health and preferences determine the definite treatment. Five-year overall survival is reported to range from 61 to 87.6%. A large tumor size and positive lymph node status correlate with a decreased overall and disease-free survival.

Keywords: carcinoma; epithelium; inflammation; lacrimal drainage system; lacrimal sac; nasolacrimal duct; virus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma / complications
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Delayed Diagnosis
  • Eye Neoplasms / complications
  • Eye Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Lacrimal Apparatus / pathology*
  • Lacrimal Duct Obstruction / diagnosis
  • Lacrimal Duct Obstruction / etiology*