If retinoblastoma spreads

Cancer cells can spread from the retina to other parts of the body. This spread is called metastasis.

Understanding how a type of cancer usually grows and spreads helps the healthcare team plan treatment and future care. Retinoblastoma can spread by direct growth or through the blood. Retinoblastoma commonly grows under the retina in the fluid inside the eye (called the vitreous humour). It can also grow outward to involve the choroid, sclera, eye socket (orbit) and optic nerve. Retinoblastoma can sometimes spread through the optic nerve to the brain and the spinal cord (called the central nervous system, or CNS).

If retinoblastoma spreads, it can spread to the following:

  • the choroid
  • the sclera
  • the conjunctiva
  • the optic nerve
  • the orbit
  • the eyelid
  • the hollow chambers around the nose (paranasal sinuses)
  • the lymph nodes in the head and neck
  • the brain and spinal cord
  • the bones
  • the lungs

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. About Retinoblastoma. 2015.
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Retinoblastoma - Childhood. 2015.
  • Retinoblastoma. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Cincinnati, OH: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center; 2011.
  • Hurwitz RL, Shields CL, Shields JA, et al . Retinoblastoma. Pizzo, P. A. & Poplack, D. G. (Eds.). Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011: 27: pp. 809-837.
  • Khetan V, Chan HSL, Wang L, et al . Retinoblastoma. Gospodarowicz, M. K., O'Sullivan, B., Sobin, L. H., et al. (Eds.). Prognostic Factors in Cancer. 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 2006: 39: pp. 273-277.
  • National Cancer Institute. Retinoblastoma Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. 2016.
  • National Childhood Cancer Foundation & Children's Oncology Group. CureSearch: Just Diagnosed with Retinoblastoma. Bethesda, MD: 2011.
  • Retinoblastoma. Nemours Foundation. KidsHealth - For Parents. Nemours Foundation; 2009.
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Retinoblastoma. Memphis, TN: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital; 2017.
  • Wang LL, Yustein J, Louis C, et al . Solid tumors of childhood. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, & Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2011: 123: pp. 1760-92.

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