Treatments for retinoblastoma

If your child has retinoblastoma, the healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for your child. It will be based on your child’s health and specific information about the cancer. The goals of treating retinoblastoma are to cure the cancer, preserve as much vision as possible and lower the risk of late side effects.

Your child’s treatment will be overseen by a pediatric oncologist. They will work with other specialists, such as a pediatric ophthalmologist, pediatric surgeon, radiation oncologist and genetic counsellor. Find out more about your child’s healthcare team.

When deciding which treatments to offer for retinoblastoma, the healthcare team will consider:

  • if the cancer is in one eye (called unilateral retinoblastoma) or both eyes (called bilateral retinoblastoma)
  • the stage of the retinoblastoma
  • the location, size and number of tumours in the eye
  • whether the cancer has spread outside the eye (called extraocular retinoblastoma)
  • the child’s vision in each eye

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Treating Retinoblastoma. 2015.
  • Canadian Retinoblastoma Society . National Retinoblastoma Strategy Canadian Guidelines for Care. Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology. NRC Research Press; 2009.
  • Children's Hospital Boston. Retinoblastoma. Boston, MA: Children's Hospital Boston; 2017.
  • Hurwitz RL, Shields CL, Shields JA et al . Retinoblastoma. Pizzo PA & Poplack DG (eds.). Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 7th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer; 2016: 27: 700-725.
  • Isidro MA. Medscape Reference: Retinoblastoma Treatment & Management. 2016.
  • National Cancer Institute. Retinoblastoma Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. 2016.
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Retinoblastoma. Memphis, TN: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital; 2017.
  • Retinoblastoma: The Basics. University of Pennsylvania. OncoLink. Reviewed ed. University of Pennsylvania; 2008.

Treatments for intraocular retinoblastoma

Intraocular retinoblastoma is cancer that is contained within the eye and has not spread to other parts of the body. Treatment for smaller tumours usually consists of a local therapy (cryosurgery, thermotherapy or laser surgery). Treatment for larger tumours may use plaque brachytherapy or chemotherapy.

Treatments for extraocular retinoblastoma

The following are treatment options for extraocular retinoblastoma (cancer that has spread outside the eye). The types of treatments given are based on the unique needs of the child with cancer.

Treatments for recurrent retinoblastoma

Recurrent retinoblastoma means that the cancer has come back (has recurred) after it has been treated. The types of treatments given are based on the unique needs of the child with cancer.

Chemotherapy for retinoblastoma

Chemotherapy is one of the main treatments for retinoblastoma.

Surgery for retinoblastoma

Surgery is a common treatment for retinoblastoma.

Radiation therapy for retinoblastoma

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. It is sometimes used to treat retinoblastoma.

Stem cell transplant for retinoblastoma

A stem cell transplant replaces stem cells. Stem cells are basic cells that develop into different types of cells that have different jobs. Retinoblastoma is sometimes treated with a stem cell transplant.

Follow-up after treatment for retinoblastoma

Follow-up is an important part of care for retinoblastoma. It often involves regular tests and visits with the healthcare team.

Late effects of treatments for retinoblastoma

Supportive care helps children and their parents meet the physical, practical, emotional and spiritual challenges of retinoblastoma. It is an important part of cancer care.

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete.

The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.

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