Treatment for Retinoblastoma
Ophthalmologists and oncologists work together to treat children with eye cancer.
The ophthalmologist usually leads the team, but if cancer spreads beyond the eye, the oncologist may lead.
In order of importance, the aims of therapy are:
- to protect or save your child’s life
- to control symptoms when cure is not possible
- to save the eye with vision
- to save the blind eye and preserve cosmetic appearance
Without prompt, appropriate treatment, retinoblastoma will kill your child. A range of therapies are used to treat the cancer. Your child’s medical team should thoroughly discuss with you the options and proposed treatment plan.
Treatment will depend on
- whether one or both eyes are involved
- the size and location of tumours in each eye
- whether cancer has spread, or is at high risk to spread, outside the eye
- potential for saving vision
- availability of different treatments and follow up care
- the general health and well-being of your child
When the eye is not immediately removed, the child usually requires multiple therapies over many months or years. All children require close follow up once treatment has ended to ensure any recurrence of the cancer is detected early.
This comprehensive guide to making treatment decisions will help you navigate the process, from before diagnosis, and throughout your child’s eye cancer journey.
Surgical removal of an eye with retinoblastoma is often the only way to save a child’s life. Surgery is also the best option for children with large tumour in only one affected eye.
Laser, cryotherapy or chemotherapy delivered directly into the eye or to tissues surrounding it, are done in the operating room under general anaesthetic.
Anti-cancer drugs are given either to shrink the tumour to enable focal therapy, or because cancer has spread outside the eye or has high risk of relapse after enucleation surgery.
High-energy rays are targeted at tumours to destroy cancerous cells. Radioactive plaque and external beam radiotherapy can be used.
This is an intensive therapy for trilateral and extraocular retinoblastoma. After the child is given super high dose chemotherapy, stem cells are infused to rebuild the bone marrow.
Cancer treatments damage a cells’ ability to grow or reproduce. Rapidly dividing healthy cells can also be damaged by these treatments, causing side effects.
Eye Patching does not treat retinoblastoma tumours, but it may be used after eye salvage treatment to help improve vision in a weaker eye.