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Retinoblastoma Treatment Information
The right treatment for your child depends on the stage of the retinoblastoma and many other factors. Your multidisciplinary healthcare team may include ophthalmologists, oncologists, specialized nurses and other professionals.
Treatment options include:
- Radiation. This therapy uses highly focused energy to destroy the retinoblastoma cells. There are several types of radiation treatment. Newer methods deliver radiation with much less damage to normal tissues compared with older approaches. Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) allows us to control the angle, shape and strength of the beams with precision. Brachytherapy involves placing a small amount of radioactive material inside the eye. External beam radiation therapy is one option to try to preserve the eye while treating the cancer. However, other treatments are just as effective with fewer side effects. As a result, we typically use external beam radiation therapy only when other options have not worked. Your child would likely receive approximately 20 external beam radiation therapy sessions over four or five weeks.
- Photocoagulation. This treatment uses a laser to destroy blood vessels that supply the tumor. Your child receives this treatment once a month for two or three months. It is useful for smaller tumors.
- Thermotherapy (heat treatment). This technology attacks cancer cells with infrared light. We typically provide three treatments spaced a month apart. Thermotherapy is effective by itself for certain small tumors. We also sometimes use it in combination with chemotherapy or radiation.
- Cryotherapy (cold treatment). This treatment uses a metal probe to freeze cancer cells. Your child receives cryotherapy under general anesthesia once a month for two or three months. This therapy is useful only for smaller tumors that are near the front of the eye.
- Surgery. We sometimes treat retinoblastoma by removing the tumor and surrounding tissue. This approach involves taking out the eye and part of the optic nerve in an operation called enucleation. This surgery is useful when the tumor is large and vision in the eye has already been lost. We place the child under general anesthesia for this outpatient procedure, which takes less than an hour. Many children can go home the same day. Loss of an eye can cause trouble with depth perception. Most children adapt quickly to this change. We usually place an implant into the eye socket during the surgery. We connect the implant to the muscles that control the eye so that it will move as the other eye does. A prosthetic shell matching your child’s natural eye will be made later to fit over the implant. If your child has tumors in both eyes, enucleation would be used only if no other options were available for treating the cancer.
- Chemotherapy. We use anti-cancer drugs in several ways. Sometimes they can shrink a tumor before we begin another treatment, such as radiation, laser therapy or cryotherapy. In other cases they are a treatment for retinoblastoma that has spread to other parts of the body or seem likely to spread. Your child may take anti-cancer drugs by mouth or by injection into a vein. Other methods include injection into the tissues surrounding the eye or the artery that supplies blood to the eye.
Retinoblastoma Locations & Physicians
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Retinoblastoma Support Services
Learning as much as possible about retinoblastoma makes you a more effective partner in your child’s care. These websites provide information and resources:
A Sampling of Retinoblastoma Support Services
American Cancer Society
This national nonprofit group explains in easy-to-understand language how retinoblastoma forms, how it is treated and what you and your child can expect when facing this disease.
American Childhood Cancer Organization
This nonprofit organization provides an overview of retinoblastoma and connects you with other families affected by this condition.
This patient-friendly site from the American Academy of Ophthalmology helps you understand the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of retinoblastoma.
Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute
This site allows you to search for Indiana clinical research studies in which your child can participate.