Causes & Risk Factors Of Retinoblastoma: Symptoms & Treatment

Retinoblastoma is cancer of the eye which commences in the retina. It commonly afflicts young children, and hardly ever occurs in adults. Retinoblastoma may occur in one eye or both eyes.

The tumor develops when the retinal nerve cells develop genetic mutations. The mutation causes the cells to multiply in an uncontrolled fashion.

The buildup of cells forms a tumor mass. Retinoblastoma can march into the eye and close by structures as well as metastasize to other portions of the body.

It is not clear what causes the mutation which leads to retinoblastoma. It is possible that a child can inherit a genetic mutation from the parents.

Hereditary retinoblastomas are passed from the parent to the child in an autosomal dominant way – i.e. only one parent needs a single copy of the faulty gene to pass the risk of retinoblastoma to the child. Hereditary retinoblastoma tends to develop in both eyes, not just one eye.

Symptoms And Diagnosis Of Retinoblastoma

Symptoms of retinoblastoma include:

  • A white color in the pupil.
  • Eyes appear to be looking in different directions.
  • Swelling and redness of the eyes.

How to detect of retinoblastoma?

  • Eye examination: The ophthalmologist will carry out an eye examination to find out what is causing the symptoms.
  • Imaging investigations: Scans help ascertain the size of the tumor mass and the extent of spread. You will need an ultrasound, CT scan and MRI.
  • Consulting with other doctors: You must confer with an oncologist and a surgeon.

Treatment Options For Retinoblastoma

The treatment depends up on the size and site of the tumor, whether spread and metastasis has occurred, the child’s overall health and the parents’ preference. There are host of treatment options, which can be used singly or in combination:

  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy drugs kill the malignant cells. Chemotherapy can be taken as a pill, or it can be administered via a blood vessel.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy employs high energy beams to annihilate the tumor cells.
  • Laser therapy: A laser is employed to kill the blood vessels which provide nutrients and oxygen to the cancer mass. Without fuel, the tumor cells die.
  • Cold treatments: Cryotherapy makes use of severe cold to destroy the malignant cells.
  • Heat treatments: Extreme heat is used to destroy the cancer cells. Heat is directed via microwaves, ultrasound or laser.
  • Surgical intervention to excise the afflicted eye:The eyeball that is cancer affected as well as a segment of the optic nerve, which pulls out from the posterior aspect of the eye to the brain is also removed.
  • Surgery to insert an eye implant: After the eyeball has been removed, the surgeon will place a unique ball made of plastic in the socket of the eye. Muscles governing the movements of the eye are attached to the eye implant. After a couple of weeks, the eye muscles will get accustomed to the implanted eyeball, so that it may move just like the natural eye. Conversely, the implanted eyeball cannot see.
  • Artificial eye: A few months after the surgery, an artificial eye is placed over the implant. The simulated eye can be made to match your healthy eye.