Retinoblastoma is a serious life threatening condition that needs proper awareness so as to understand the severity of this cancer. For this, Retinoblastoma awareness week is being held every in May to raise the awareness among the people. It is very essential for the people to know the facts and information about retinoblastoma.
A rare type of tumor, Retinoblastoma affects a large number of children under the age of 15. This deadly eye cancer in children is a type of childhood cancer that accounts for about 3 % of all the cancers in children. It begins from immature retinal cells in either one or both the eyes. The cancer may start from the time a child is in the womb of his mother and remains till the age of 5. The Unilateral Retinoblastoma tumor is that type of tumor that is present in only one eye while the Bilateral Retinoblastoma tumor is present in both the eyes. It has been examined that most people who are suffering from retinoblastoma have unilateral retinoblastoma while very less people experience bilateral retinoblastoma. About in 90% of cases, the retinoblastoma does not have a family history while remaining who are newly diagnosed have hereditary retinoblastoma.
The diagnosis of this condition is done by a thorough examination of both the eyes. A pediatrician notices the strabismus (crossed eyes) or a white pupil. The surgeon may examine the child under general anesthesia in order to know the degree of tumor spread in the eye. Additional tests may also be done to examine the presence of other tumors. CT (CAT) Scan, Ultrasound and MRI are the following tests conducted in order to get the inside picture of the brain and the eye.
It sometimes gets difficult to detect this tumor as the child will never complain of having a poor vision. The symptoms may affect either one or both the eyes. A child may have white spots that can be seen in the photographs with flash. The child’s eye looks distorted or white instead of red eye resulting from the flash of the camera. The other symptoms include poor vision, eye pain, eye redness, differing iris colors in each eye, double vision, eyes which do not align and crossed eyes.
Cause of retinoblastoma is due to a mutation in a gene that controls the division of the cells. This causes the overgrowth of cells that eventually becomes cancerous. This type of mutation develops in those children who never had eye cancer family history. It has been seen several times that the mutation is present in certain family members. If the mutation is present in the family history of the child, there are about 50% of chances that the affected family member’s child will also develop the mutation. Therefore, those children have higher risks of developing the condition of retinoblastoma.
The treatment required depends upon the location and the size of the tumor. It also depends upon the spread of the tumor on other parts of the body or beyond the patient’s eye. The different treatments of retinoblastoma are Chemotherapy, Photocoagulation (laser therapy) and Cyrotherapy (freezing treatment). During Chemotherapy, the anti-cancer drugs are used to destroy the cancer cells. These anti-cancer drugs helps in reducing the further multiplying or growing of the cancer cells. This therapy may be required when the tumor has spread beyond the eye. The powerful laser beam of light is used to destroy the cancerous tumors in the eye. The laser produces small burns that destroy the supply of the blood to the tumor causing the tumor to shrink and is known as Photocoagulation (laser therapy). Whereas Cyrotherapy therapy or laser surgery is used to freeze the small tumors.