Retinoblastoma – The Rare Eye Cancer

What is Retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer that develops in the retina. The retina is the part of the eye that converts light into signals the brain uses to see. It is most commonly diagnosed in children under the age of 5, but can also occur in older people.

Risk factors

Risk factors for retinoblastoma include:

  • Having a family history
  • Inherited genetic mutations
  • Exposure to chemicals during pregnancy
  • Radiation exposure to their father


Symptoms of retinoblastoma can include:

  • A white pupil in photographs
  • Eye redness or pain
  • A crossed eye or lazy eye
  • Vision loss
  • Bulging of the eye
  • Bleeding in the eye


Any of the above symptoms noted in children should be reported to their healthcare provider quickly. This can lead to prompt evaluation with specialized eye exams and vision tests.

Other imaging studies may be used and can include ultrasound and MRI.

For most cancers, performing a biopsy to get a tissue to test for the presence of cancer cells is done. However, this can be a very risky procedure for retinoblastoma. Because of this, it is often diagnosed by eye exams and other imaging tests.


Treatment for retinoblastoma depends on the stage and location of cancer, the patient’s age, and overall health. Treatment options include eye-saving treatments such as:

  • Laser therapy
  • Cryotherapy (killing cancer cells by freezing them)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Other, more invasive treatment options can include surgical removal of the affected eye (enucleation) or removal of the entire eye and surrounding tissue (exenteration).

Retinoblastoma is a rare eye cancer that can affect children of all ages. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the best possible outcome. If you or your child have any symptoms of retinoblastoma, please see an ophthalmologist immediately.


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