Know More About Retinoblastoma

As the name suggests, this cancer develops in the retina. The retina is a sensitive lining that is present inside the eye. The retina is responsible for collecting the signals through nerve tissues. Once the signals are received, the retina sends the signals to the brain that helps us perceive them as images. Retinoblastoma occurs more commonly in young children and is hardly observed among adults. It may or may not occur in both eyes. However, once it has occurred in one of the eyes, there is a high chance that it may occur in the other in the later stages of life.

What are the causes of Retinoblastoma?

There is the presence of nerve cells in the retina that maintain the overall functioning. Any kind of mutations in the DNA of nerve cells can lead to uncontrolled proliferation of the cells. It could also spread to other places if not diagnosed and treated at the right time.

Also, a person may carry a genetic mutation as a part of heredity that might lead to the development of retinoblastoma.

Exposure to chemicals like diesel or chemicals in gasoline during pregnancy might lead to the development of retinoblastoma.

Types of Retinoblastoma

Generally, there are two types of retinoblastoma that are observed in people. These are:

Hereditary retinoblastoma

Hereditary retinoblastoma refers to what a child receives in heredity from the family. It could be sporadic or familial. Familial hereditary retinoblastoma is the type when the gene is inherited because of a parent or a family member. Sporadic hereditary blastoma is when the mutation takes place in the RB1 gene before fertilization in either sperm or the egg.


Non-hereditary retinoblastoma

As the name suggests, this type of retinoblastoma is not inherited from any of the parents or family members. The mutations in both copies of the gene RB1 can lead to the development of unilateral retinoblastoma.


Stages of Retinoblastoma

Based on how much the disease has advanced, the specialists have determined certain stages for that. These include:

Stage 1
This stage refers to the condition when the tumor is set in the eye itself, and the treatment does not require any kind of surgery.

Stage 2
The tumors are still in the eye, for which the surgeons may perform an eye removal.

Stage 3
At this stage, the tumor cells spread to the tissues around the eye socket. It moves to lymph nodes around.

Stage 4
Cancer may affect the organs like the liver, bones, brain, or spinal cord.

Signs and Symptoms

  • The first and foremost symptom of retinoblastoma is a white pupil. The appearance is cloudy, and it also appears in the photographs taken.
  • The person could be facing strabismus which refers to a crosseyed situation. Here, one eye may turn in one direction and the other eye in a different direction. The eyes get misaligned.
  • The person can experience inflammation, redness, and itchiness in the eyes. This may increase the sensitivity of the eye.
  • There could be poor vision, eye swelling, or discomfort.


The doctor does an eye examination to look for possible symptoms. Often, the patient is under general anesthesia, and the doctor uses various instruments to look for possible signs.

Bone marrow biopsy

It refers to taking a sample of the tissue so that it can be analyzed if the tumor is cancerous or not. The specialist will look for the possible signs under the microscope.

Imaging Techniques

It involves techniques like MRI scans, CT scans, and ultrasounds. They help to get detailed images of internal organs to determine their level of functioning.

Spinal Tap

The spinal tap helps to trace the cancer cells in the fluid that is present near the brain and spine.

Side effects of such procedures

  • Chemotherapy treatments can lead to tiredness, weakness, infections, easy bruising and bleeding, low red blood cell count, appetite issues, constipation, and hair loss.
  • Radiotherapy can cause nausea and vomiting, headache, skin changes, blurry vision, hair issues, concentration issues, etc.
  • Surgery could cause pain, swelling, infection in the affected area, bruising, appetite loss, and drainage. One needs to be careful during the recovery period.

Available Treatments

The treatments that are available for handling retinoblastoma are:


Chemotherapy is among one the common treatment for treating cancer. The chemo drugs can be given in three ways. They can be injected and travel throughout the body to kill cancer cells, or intra-arterial chemotherapy can be performed where drugs are delivered directly into the tumor. Intravitreal chemotherapy involves injecting chemicals directly into the eye.

Radiation Therapy

Radiotherapy uses strong beams of light, protons, or X-rays to target the tumor cells and destroy them. In plaque radiotherapy, a small-sized disk containing radioactive elements is fixed placed, and it transmits radiation to the tumor gradually. External beam radiation focuses on tumors from outside the body through machines.


It involves freezing the tumor cells to an extreme temperature that leads to their destruction. Liquid nitrogen can be used for the process.

Surgical Procedures

The doctor could perform eye removal called enucleation. An eye implant could also be made by the doctor where immediately after removing the eye socket, a special eyeball is placed. An artificial eye can also be made to deal with the situation.

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