The retina is a layer of nerve tissue in the back of the eye made of specialized cells that process light, color for us to see and sends images to the brain. If the malignant tumor grows in the retina the condition is termed as Retinoblastoma or the uncontrolled growth of retinal cells is known as the retinoblastoma.

Symptoms of Retinoblastoma

Some of the most known symptoms include:

  • A white color in the center of the eye (pupil) is observed only when light is shown into eyes
  • Eye redness
  • Eye swelling
  • Typical signs (more than 20% of cases) include:
  • leukocoria (cat's eye reflex)
  • strabismus

What causes retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is primarily caused by mutations in certain genes. Though the exact reasons for the gene mutations are unknown but researchers have discovered familial and non-familial causes for the disease.

Retinoblastoma’s causes can be classified into 2 categories:

  • One caused by inheriting a defective gene (familial)
  • Change in the RB gene during cell replication (sporadic).
  • Family history is the main risk factor for retinoblastoma.

According to the studies if a parent is infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), it increases the risk of their offspring developing retinoblastoma. But the observation is controversial with the medical community.

Diagnosing Retinoblastoma

  • Over 80% of retinoblastomas are mostly detected by family or friend rather than a doctor. This is because of the children’s age since the child cannot communicate any problems with their eyes.
  • The doctor may order some of the tests like CT scan or MRI scan, to confirm the retinoblastoma.

Treating Retinoblastoma

Determining the appropriate treatment for retinoblastoma depends on the condition of the patient and obtaining the information of patient’s familial or non-familial retinoblastoma.

  • If the vision of the patient is kept unaffected then laser therapy or cryotherapy (freezing cancer cells) may be used.
  • Radiation therapy is used as the last method to treat because of the potential side effects of damage to healthy tissue. There is also a possibility of triggering a new non-ocular tumor in a familial case.
  • Chemotherapy is sometimes used to shrink the tumor
  • Enucleation: It refers to the process of removing of the eye. It is done only if a child's vision cannot be saved or if there is a high risk that the cancer will spread.

Can retinoblastoma be prevented?

  • There are no known and avoidable risk factors for retinoblastoma. Hence, there are no possible ways to prevent this cancer.
  • If retinoblastoma is hereditary in some cases, parents should consider genetic counseling before having children to avoid passing the gene change on to their children.
  • Siblings of a child with retinoblastoma should have their eyes routinely checked by an eye specialist to prevent further damage.

What are the side effects of Retinoblastoma?

The side effects for treatment of any disease will vary from person to person and depends on the stage of the cancer too. Some of the short-term problems may include:

  • Skin changes like mild sunburn to more severe skin reactions
  • Hair loss
  • Reduced vision
  • Growth of bone and other tissues near the eye gets affected
  • Increased risk of developing a second cancer in the area