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Health Information For Parents
Retinoblastoma is a type of eye cancer that affects the retina, the inner layer of the eye. Nerve cells in the retina sense light and send images to the brain and allow us to see.
Retinoblastoma causes tumors (clumps of cells) to grow in the retina. This happens when the nerve cells grow out of control. This means the eye can’t communicate with the brain as it should.
Retinoblastoma can happen at any age, but most cases are in children younger than 2 years. Tumors can be in one eye or both eyes. They rarely spread to other parts of the body.
Retinoblastoma can be treated.
The most common early sign of retinoblastoma is leukocoria (a cloudy white pupil). In bright light, the pupil can look silvery or yellow.
Other signs include:
Most cases of retinoblastoma are caused by a genetic mutation (a change in a gene).
Heritable retinoblastoma can happen:
This form of retinoblastoma usually affects both eyes and can cause more than one tumor in each eye.
Sporadic retinoblastoma happens when a gene mutation happens in early childhood, usually after 1 year of age and affecting just one eye. Doctors don’t know why this happens.
(an eye doctor for children) will carefully check the retina by dilating (enlarging) the pupil with eye drops. Sometimes, mostly in younger children, the doctor may give a medicine to make the child sleep during the exam.
The doctor might also order tests, like an ultrasound of the eye, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), blood tests, and genetic testing.
If retinoblastoma is found, a pediatric
(a children’s cancer doctor) may do tests to see if the cancer also is anywhere else in the child’s body.
If the retinoblastoma is extraocular, the doctor will order more blood tests, a spinal tap (lumbar puncture), and a bone marrow
, taking a sample of cells from the hip bone.
The ophthalmologist and oncologist work together with a team of other experts to treat a child with retinoblastoma. The team will make a care plan based on the size of the tumor, whether it is in one or both eyes, and whether it has spread beyond the eye.
When they treat a child with retinoblastoma, doctors try to:
There are many treatments for retinoblastoma, and all are aimed at killing cancer cells. These treatments, or a combination of them, may be recommended:
A child will need regular eye exams (usually while under anesthesia) to make sure the treatment is working.
Retinoblastoma treatment can cause side effects in some kids.
During this time, the doctor may order pain relievers for your child.
When treatment is over, kids can get back to normal activities if they feel well enough and if the doctor says it’s OK. Recovery time can vary from one child to another.
Children who have an eye removed get a prosthetic eye in its place. Prosthetic eyes are of such good quality that most people can’t tell which eye is natural and which is prosthetic.
Most children treated for retinoblastoma go on to lead normal lives.
If a baby’s parent or sibling has had retinoblastoma, the baby should have an eye exam shortly after birth to see if there is a tumor in the eye. If a tumor is found early, the child may need less treatment and doctors might have a better chance of saving the baby’s eyesight.
Kids with hereditable retinoblastoma in one eye could get it later in the other eye. So they should have regular checkups of the healthy eye as recommended by the ophthalmologist. After treatment, they should have checkups for as long as directed by the treatment team.
Learning that a child has cancer is upsetting, and cancer treatment can be stressful for any family.
But remember, you’re not alone. To find support, talk to your doctor or a hospital social worker. Many resources are available to help you get through this difficult time, including online sites such as:
From treatments and prevention to coping with the emotional aspects of cancer, the Cancer Center provides comprehensive information that parents need.
Different kinds of childhood cancer have different signs, symptoms, treatments, and outcomes. But today, most kids with cancer get better.
Learn about neuroblastoma, a rare type of childhood cancer that develops in infants and young children.
The eyes are small compared with most of the body’s other organs, but their structure is incredibly complex. Learn more about eyes, vision, and common problems with both.
Retinopathy of prematurity, which can happen in premature babies, causes abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina. Some children will need surgery to prevent vision loss or blindness.
Strabismus causes eyes to wander or cross. Treatment may include glasses, patches, eye drops, or surgery.
Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, irradiation, or X-ray therapy, is one of the most common forms of cancer treatment.
Taking care of a chronically ill child is one of the most draining and difficult tasks a parent can face. But support groups, social workers, and family friends often can help.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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