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Late Effects of Treatment for Childhood Cancer (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Senses



Eye and vision problems are a late effect that is more likely to occur after treatment for certain childhood cancers.

Treatment for these and other childhood cancers may cause eye and vision late effects:

  • Retinoblastoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, and other tumors of the eye.
  • Brain tumors.
  • Head and neck cancers.
  • Cancers treated with total-body irradiation (TBI) before a stem cell transplant.

Radiation to the brain or head increases the risk of eye problems or vision loss.

The risk of eye problems or vision loss may be increased in childhood cancer survivors after treatment with any of the following:

  • Radiation therapy to the brain, eye, or eye socket.
  • Surgery to remove the eye.
  • Total-body irradiation (TBI) as part of a stem cell transplant.
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs, such as busulfan.
  • Corticosteroids.
  • Stem cell transplant and a history of chronic graft-versus-host disease.

Late effects that affect the eye may cause certain health problems.

Eye late effects include the following:

  • Having a small eye socket that affects the shape of the child's face as it grows.
  • Loss of vision.
  • Vision problems, such as cataracts or glaucoma.
  • Not being able to make tears.
  • Damage to the optic nerve and retina.
  • Eyelid tumors.

Possible signs of eye and vision late effects include changes in vision and dry eyes.

These symptoms may be caused by eye and vision late effects:

  • Changes in vision, such as:
    • Not being able to see objects that are close.
    • Not being able to see objects that are far away.
    • Double vision.
    • Cloudy or blurred vision.
    • Colors seem faded.
    • Seeing a glare or halo around lights at night.
  • Dry eyes that may feel like they are itchy, burning, or swollen, or like there is something in the eye.
  • Eye pain.
  • Eye redness.
  • Nausea.
  • Having a growth on the eyelid.

Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. Talk to your child's doctor if your child has any of these problems.

Certain tests and procedures are used to detect (find) and diagnose health problems in the eye and vision problems.

These and other tests and procedures may be used to detect or diagnose eye and vision late effects:

  • Eye exam with dilatedpupil: An exam of the eye in which the pupil is dilated (widened) with medicated eye drops to allow the doctor to look through the lens and pupil to the retina. The inside of the eye, including the retina and the optic nerve, is checked using an instrument that makes a narrow beam of light. This is sometimes called a slit-lamp exam. The doctor may take pictures over time to keep track of changes in the size of the tumor and how fast it is growing.
  • Indirect ophthalmoscopy: An exam of the inside of the back of the eye using a small magnifying lens and a light.

Talk to your child's doctor about whether your child needs to have tests and procedures to check for signs of eye and vision late effects. If tests are needed, find out how often they should be done.


WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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