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what is retinoblastoma?
What is it?
- Retinoblastoma (ret-no-blast-oma) is the most common eye cancer in children. It is a life-threatening cancer of the retina. Retinoblastoma is generally discovered in babies between the ages of newborn and 36 months, although it can be found at later ages. Retinoblastoma occurs in approximately 1 in 15,000 births, and it is estimated to affect 250-300 children each year in the United States. Worldwide about 5,000 children develop retinoblastoma each year.
- Retinoblastoma occurs equally in boys and girls and it is seen in all races. Retinoblastoma affects only one eye in about 70% of patients and it affects both eyes in 30% of patients. In some instances, there is a family history of retinoblastoma in a parent or relative, but in the majority of cases, there is no other member of the family affected with the tumor.
What causes it?
- The cause of retinoblastoma is unknown. It has not been related to nutrition, smoking, drinking, or any maternal problem during pregnancy. It is not related to environmental toxins. It can develop in an otherwise healthy child despite a normal birth and early development.
What does it look like?
- Retinoblastoma develops from a single affected cell in the retina and it is invisible at its inception. Later, a small white nodule is noted in the retina, but this is not visible to the parents and it does not affect the child at this point. With time, the tumor grows into a larger white vascular tumor that causes the child to painlessly lose vision and this can manifest with a drifting eye or an eye with a white or glassy-appearing pupil. At this point, the tumor is visible to the parents or grandparents and the child is typically taken to the doctor.
What are the signs and symptoms?
- Common symptoms of this condition may include the following: •The pupil of the eye appears white instead of red when light shines into it (known as "cat's eye reflex" or "white eye"). This may be seen in flash photographs of the patient.
•The eyes appear to be looking in different directions (crossed eyes).
•Pain or redness in the eye.
- Other retinoblastoma symptoms may include:
•An enlarged or dilated pupil
•Blurred vision or poor vision
•Different colored irises.
- The symptoms listed above are not sure signs of retinoblastoma. Other, less-serious health problems can also cause these symptoms. Anyone with these possible symptoms of retinoblastoma should see a doctor as soon as possible so that the problem can be diagnosed and treated.
- Retinoblastoma may affect one eye (unilateral) or both eyes (bilateral.) In rare cases, it may develop in the pineal region of the brain (trilateral).
- The most important goal of treatment is to save the child’s life. Secondly, it is to retain vision. Without proper treatment, retinoblastoma is aggressive and life threatening.
- Treatment options include one or a combination of the following:
•Enucleation – the removal of one or both eyes.
•Chemotherapy, Radiation, Laser & Cryotherapy
•Stem Cell Transplant