What is retinoblastoma?

It is a type of cancer that affects the back of the eye (retina) in young children. It is the commonest cancer of the eye in children, affecting about one in about 15,000 -18,000 live births worldwide. It can affect one (unilateral) or both (bilateral) eyes.

Who can be affected?

Retinoblastoma usually affects young children. It is usually diagnosed at about 18 months of age. It generally occurs earlier in bilateral cases (at about 12 months) and later in unilateral cases (24 months).

Can retinoblastoma be inherited?

Majority of cases of retinoblastoma occur sporadically (that is, are not inherited). They tend to affect only one eye (unilateral).

Hereditary retinoblastoma on the other hand is more likely to occur in both eyes (bilateral). People with heritable retinoblastoma are also at risk of developing other cancers in future, so long-term follow up is advisable.

How does retinoblastoma present?

The commonest presentation of retinoblastoma is with a whitish speck in the eye, which may make the eye appear to glow especially when light is shone in the eye. It may also present as "crossed eyes" or squint, painful red eye, swollen red eye with discharge, and pus or blood in the eye.

Can retinoblastoma be prevented?

So far, there is really no way of preventing a child from developing retinoblastoma. However, early detection is invaluable in management.

What happens if retinoblastoma is not treated?

If untreated, the tumour will continue growing, causing the eye ball to bulge out, and may spread to other parts of the body such as the brain, spine and bones.

How can retinoblastoma be treated?

If detected early, it may be possible to save the affected eye by the use of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, laser photocoagulation, cryotherapy, or a combination of these.  In advanced cases, however, the eye may have to be removed surgically in addition, to prevent the cancer from spreading and to save the child's life.


Retinoblastoma- They live and they see. Santosh G Honavar & Vijay Anand P Reddy

American Cancer Society: About Retinoblastoma-

Marichelle Aventura Isidro. Retinoblastoma. July 2016. Assessed from Medscape: