Skip to main content

Retinoblastoma is an uncommon type of paediatric cancer that develops in children below the age of 5 years. This type of cancer grows on the retina, which is at the back of the eye. The retina works with the human brain by sensing light and sending information to the brain through layers of cells.

Retinoblastoma Stages

Medical practitioners classify retinoblastoma in stages based on how far cancer has spread within the eyes and body. These stages include:

Stage 0: Small tumours only are present in the retina. It can be treated without surgery.

Stage I: Other bigger tumours alongside the smaller ones are in the retina. It can be treated by surgically removing the eye with all the cancerous tissues.

Stage II: The tumours are in the retina and have spread under and around. The cancer cells remain after the removal of the eye, but one can only see them with the aid of a microscope.

Stage III: Cancer spreads further to areas surrounding the eye socket, like the lymph nodes at the neck and ear. The retina may be detached from the back of the eye at this stage.

Stage IV: Cancer spreads to other parts of the body and can affect the bones, liver, brain, and even the spinal cord.

What causes retinoblastoma?

When there is an abnormal genetic change in an inherited RB1 gene of a child, it makes the cells in one or both eyes grow out of control, forming a tumour. Approximately 40% of children inherit the RB1 gene from one of their parents.

Symptoms of retinoblastoma?

The earliest sign of retinoblastoma is a change in the look of the eyes. It affects one or both eyes. Other symptoms include white pupil (leukocoria), and crossed eyes (strabismus). The eyes may be misaligned, which can range from mild to severe.

Post-treatment eye care

After a complete treatment for retinoblastoma, the child must undergo follow-up check-ups and proper routine eye care to maintain healthy eyesight and prevent a recurrence. Also, the child will be monitored for side effects of the treatment.

Children who had surgery to remove an eye will make use of a prosthetic (fake) eye, which looks very much like a big contact lens. It will also take some time for the child to get used to it. The caregiver will also be taught to take care of the prosthetic eye. The child will need to make regular visits to be sure it fits very well. If there is a family history of retinoblastoma, ensure that routine eye check-ups are scheduled for all family members.