What is Retinoblastoma – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Every year 250-350 children in the United States are diagnosed with a rare eye cancer type called the


. They are mostly below the age of five years. This ailment comprises four percent of the total cancer types affecting children below the age of 15. The section of the eye affected by the cancer cells is the retina. It helps in the detection of light and color.

Symptoms of Retinoblastoma:

  • Loss of vision in one eye
  • Squinting
  • Unusual glint in the eye
  • Eye inflammation
  • White looking pupil
  • Tumor in the retina
  • Calcification of the eye
  • Leukokoria
  • Persistent eye pain
  • Irritation
  • Redness

Awareness of the above mentioned signs of this cancer can prove very handy in its diagnosis. If the disease is found out early, it is completely curable. If the signs are ignored, the cancer of the eye can spread to other parts of the body making the condition a life-threatening one.


The cancer is caused by mutation in the gene RBI. Structural chances in this chemical instruction do not allow it to produce enough proteins which regulate the growth of cells in the retina. As a consequence, abnormal cells start developing in this section of the eye.

If mutation in the RBI gene affects all the cells in the body and it also associates cancer in the eye, then it is called germinal retinoblastoma. Patients with this condition unfortunately also suffer from or at the risk of developing several cancers like aggressive skin melanoma, cancer in the pineal gland of the brain, cancer in the muscles and bone cancer like osteosarcoma.

According to experts 40 percent cases of eye cancer are of germinal retinoblastoma. This type of cancer in the eye can be inherited by generations. In rest of the 60 percent of non-germinal types, one eye is affected and the disease does not pass to future off-springs.

Diagnosis of the Cancer in Eye:

Eye examinations like red reflex and Hirchberg test are carried out initially. If the results are abnormal, then further screening is carried out using advanced techniques like CT scan, MRI scan and Ultrasound. Techniques like bone marrow test and lumber puncture are carried out to find out whether the disease has spread to remote locations of the body or not.

Treatment of Retinoblastoma:

The primary aims of the treatment are to firstly save the life of the child, secondly secure the vision and finally to check the side effects of the standard treatments. Depending upon the individual case the following remedies are either applied alone or in combination:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radioactive plaques
  • Laser therapy
  • Cryotherapy
  • Surgery
  • External beam radiotherapy

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