A Primer On Retinoblastoma

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A type of cancer found in the eyes, retinoblastoma is characterized by a malignant tumor found on the retinas. While this type of cancer is not one of the most common in children, it is not necessarily a rare cancer, either. Around 40% of the children who have retinoblastoma are under the age of fiveyears.

The prognosis for children with retinoblastoma is generally good. It is important to understand that while these tumors are malignant and have the potential to spread cancer to other parts of the body, they are curable if treated quickly and efficiently.

What causes retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma can be inherited, but it can also be the result of random genetics. It occurs about 75% of the time in one eye and the remainder of the time in two eyes. Retinoblastoma that occurs in both eyes is generally inherited and can be slightly more complicated to treat than when it is seen only in one eye.

What are the symptoms of retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma mimics many of the symptoms that a normal eye tumor would. A child who has pupils that are constantly dilated or has trouble focusing one or both eyes may have retinoblastoma. One indicator of retinoblastoma is to shine a light on the eye – a pupil that is healthy will typically shine red, while a pupil that has a tumor in it might shine white. However, this is not a definitive method for checking for a tumor. Your child’s doctor is the only one who can make a diagnosis.

What are the treatments for retinoblastoma?

Doctors use a variety of treatments to ensure that the tumor is removed and that it won't return. The most common way to treat retinoblastoma is with laser therapy or cryotherapy. Both of these procedures, one using heat and one using extreme cold, can cut off the blood vessels that supply life to the tumor. In more extreme cases, typical treatments like radiation and chemotherapy are used. In some rare cases, like if the cancer is expected to quickly spread, the eye has to be removed.