Chemotherapy for Retinoblastoma

Eye cancer specialists at the Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, determine the treatment for retinoblastoma based on the size and location of the tumor or tumors, whether the cancer has spread, and how the tumor affects a child’s vision. Doctors may recommend chemotherapy as part of your child’s treatment if the cancer has spread beyond the eye or the tumor extends along the optic nerve past the area where the eye was removed during surgery.

A combination of two or three chemotherapy drugs is typically given to a child through a Mediport® that’s surgically implanted under the skin. This allows chemotherapy to be delivered directly to a child’s vein while reducing the pain from needle sticks.

Sometimes children with tumors in both eyes that haven’t spread outside the eyes receive chemotherapy to help shrink tumors before being given other treatments.

If your child needs chemotherapy, your eye cancer specialist discusses all options with you.

Managing Side Effects

Chemotherapy drugs attack cells that divide quickly. They’re effective at killing not only cancer cells but also healthy cells, especially those in the bone marrow, the spongy tissue at the center of bone; hair follicles; the immune system; the intestines; and the mouth. As a result, side effects can occur, including constipation, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, hair loss, mouth sores, nausea, numbness in the hands and feet, stomach pain, and vomiting.

Chemotherapy can also increase the risk for infection by reducing the number of white blood cells, which help fight off viruses and other foreign invaders.

Side effects often go away after treatment is completed. Our doctors and nurses can prescribe medications to help ease side effects.

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