Retinoblastoma can be a heart breaking condition in a child for a parent to get used to the idea of. However the good news is that this form of cancer has the best cure rates from among all forms of childhood cancer.
Simply put, Retinoblastoma is a rapidly developing cancer of the eye (when one eye is affected, this is known as unilateral Retinoblastoma) or eyes (when both eyes are affected, in one third of cases, is known as bilateral Retinoblastoma).
Since early detection can be the key to curing this cancer, it is important to know and detect the symptoms of Retinoblastoma:
1. Many experts advise that well baby screening at birth should include screening for Retinoblastoma.
An eye exam for physical or structural abnormalities in the eyes, the Red Reflex which checks for a reddish orange reflection in the retina, and the Corneal Light Reflex to determine if eyes are crossed, should be conducted at birth to give early warning of the problem.
2. An abnormal appearance of the pupil, what is known as leukocoria, is the commonest symptom of Retinoblastoma. Here there is an abnormal white reflection from the retina which, in a photo will show up as white instead of the usual red eye phenomenon.
Leukocoria can also indicate other problems beside Retinoblastoma and so should be evaluated.
3. There could be a deterioration of vision which may be difficult to detect in a small child.
4. A red or irritated looking eye or eyes may be a generic, non specific symptom.
5. The child’s vision may also have delayed development or faltering growth.
6. The child may appear wall eyed or cross eyed and may develop a squint.
Treatment is geared firstly towards saving the child’s life, secondly towards preserving vision, and thirdly to prevent any complication or treatment side effects.
Since Retinoblastoma is a cancer like so many other kinds, it is also treated with similar treatments where an ophthalmologist works in conjunction with a pediatric oncologist. The treatments used for Retinoblastoma are –
- Chemotherapy – this is generally given by way of catheter that is inserted from the groin or the neck.
- Cryotherapy which is the use of low temperatures to decrease inflammation and increases cell survival.
- Laser therapy also can be used to combat Retinoblastoma.
- External beam radiotherapy is also effective against this kind of cancer.
- Radioactive plaques may also be used.
- Surgical options also may be utilized to remove the cancer.