What is retinoblastoma (RB)?
Retinoblastoma is a rare cancer of the eye that typically affects children between birth and five years of age. The incidence of RB is one in 15,000 live births, with about 23 children being affected in Canada each year. The retinoblastoma tumor(s) originate in the retina, the light sensitive layer of the eye that enables the eye to see. When the tumors are present in one eye, it is referred to as unilateral retinoblastoma, and when it occurs in both eyes it is referred to as bilateral retinoblastoma.
What are the signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma?
Parents are often the first to notice the signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma. The most common indicator of RB is whiteness reflected in the pupil of a baby’s eye, particularly noticeable when the pupil is dilated. This is known as leukocoria. One or both of the child’s eyes may turn inward or outward as a result of poor vision in the affected eye.
Parents often describe this as lazy eye, crossed eyes, or a wandering eye. The medical name for this is strabismus. More rarely, a child’s RB may be indicated by redness and/or swelling of the eye(s). None of these indicators is conclusive of RB, but if a parent notices these symptoms in their child, a visit to your optometrist or a referral to an ophthalmologist should be sought immediately.
How is retinoblastoma treated?
Treatment for retinoblastoma is surgical removal of the tumor(s). If that is not possible, then in some cases it may be necessary to remove the eye.