What is retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is a malignant(cancerous) tumor on the retina, the light-sensing part of the eye that is located in the back of the eye. This type of cancer can be present in one or both eyes.

Who gets retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma occurs most often in children 5 years old and younger. It rarely occurs in adults. Between 200 and 300 children are diagnosed with retinoblastoma each year, affecting one in every 20,000 newborns. About 40 percent of all cases of retinoblastoma are inherited, meaning the cancer is passed on from parent to child. Retinoblastoma occurs about 75 percent of the time in one eye, and 25 percent of the time in both eyes.

What are the stages of retinoblastoma?

Stages of retinoblastoma include:

  • Intraocular retinoblastoma: This is the earliest stage of retinoblastoma, found in one or both eyes. It has not yet spread to tissue outside of the eye.
  • Extraocular retinoblastoma: This type of cancer has spread outside of the eye or to other parts of the body.
  • Recurrent retinoblastoma: The cancer has come back or spread in the eye or to other parts of the body after being treated.

What causes retinoblastoma?

Our eyes begin to develop very early in the womb. Rapidly growing cells in the eye, called retinoblasts, will eventually mature and form the retina. Sometimes, these specialized cells do not stop reproducing and form a tumor on the retina. These tumors might continue to grow, filling almost the entire vitreous humor (the jelly-like substances that fills the eyeball), but also break off and spread to other parts of the eye, and eventually outside to lymph nodes and other organs.

What are the symptoms of retinoblastoma?

Symptoms of retinoblastoma include:

  • A pupil that appears white when light is shone into it, called leucocoria, might mean that a retinal tumor is present. Blood vessels in the back of the eye will normally reflect red.
  • The eyes might not move or focus in the same direction.
  • There might be eye pain.
  • The pupil is constantly dilated.
  • The eye(s) might be red.