Norton Children’s offers one of the country’s few programs dedicated to treating retinoblastoma.
A rare cancer in the eye, retinoblastoma affects the retina, which detects light and color. The disease often reveals itself as a white glow in the pupil that shows up in photographs. Eye drifting is another symptom.
Retinoblastoma usually affects children younger than age 5, and the typical age of diagnosis is 12 to 18 months.
The Norton Eye Cancer Program, affiliated with the University of Louisville, is led by Aparna Ramasubramanian, M.D., one of the nation’s few physicians specializing in ocular oncology and treatment of retinoblastoma. She is the nation’s only physician fellowship trained in pediatric ophthalmology and ocular oncology. Dr. Ramasubramanian is author of the leading textbook on retinoblastoma.
About 300 children each year are affected, and current treatment methods have increased the survival rate to more than 95 percent. Early detection and treatment is very important to prevent spread to the brain and the rest of the body.
The disease is caused by a genetic anomaly, but in nearly all cases there is no family history. If retinoblastoma is suspected, your physician will recommend genetic testing.
Treatment options include targeting the tumor with chemotherapy combined with freezing or heating with a precise laser. Heat is safely applied to the tumor with a laser that helps shrink the diseased tissue. Freezing is used to facilitate chemotherapy.
If radiation is recommended, your child’s physician may recommend placing a tiny radioactive disc in the eye, sometimes called an eye plaque, for three to four days. More advanced cancers may require a beam of radiation delivered from outside the eye.
Advanced cases of retinoblastoma may require removal of the eye to prevent the cancer from spreading. Our specialist replaces the eye with a prosthesis with very good cosmetic results.
For more information about the Eye Cancer Program, call (502) 629-HOPE.