Classifying Pediatric Retinoblastoma and Identifying Preventive Measures

In each year, there are an estimated one in every 15,000 to 20,000 infants born with eye cancer in the United States. During the early times, it was not yet clear if pediatric retinoblastoma was caused by environmental factors or hereditary. But in today’s generation, with the advancement in technology, it has been found that this disease can be inherited from one generation to another.

According to recent studies, 6% of newly diagnosed retinoblastoma were inherited from the previous generation, while 94% were sporadic, which means the family history of the patient is negative for the disease. This is only one of the three different classifications of children’s eye cancer, with the other two being bilateral or unilateral, and heritable or non-heritable.

Other Classifications of Pediatric Retinoblastoma

  • Unilateral vs. Bilateral Retinoblastoma. The classification of pediatric retinoblastoma when either only one eye (unilateral) or both eyes (bilateral) are affected. According to research, bilateral retinoblastoma may manifest in children at a much earlier age than unilateral retinoblastoma. And in the total number of cases, two-thirds of pediatric retinoblastoma are unilateral, and only one-third of the cases are bilateral. Unilateral retinoblastoma cases are usually not inherited while bilateral cases are almost always inherited.


  • Heritable vs, Non-heritable Retinoblastoma. The classification of pediatric retinoblastoma that identifies baby and parentswhether or not the disease has a chance of being passed on to the next generation. Usually, those patients with retinoblastoma who inherited the disease from their parent/s have a chance of passing it on to their future offsprings, and this covers an estimated 40%
    of all cases of retinoblastoma. On the other hand, 60% of those cases are non-germinal, which means that the disease was acquired sporadically and is at a greater chance of being non-heritable.

Even though a child will inherit the gene from either one or both parents, they will still have a chance of not having the disease but that chance is very slim since their risk of developing retinoblastoma is at 90%.

Preventive and Treatment Measures of Pediatric Retinoblastoma

As of now, there are no other preventive measures for retinoblastoma except for having the child’s eye examined as early as possible for a higher chance of being able to treat the disease and save the child’s vision.

For the treatment, it highly depends on the severity of the disease and whether or not it was inherited genetically. There are both non-surgical and surgical treatment methods for pediatric retinoblastoma.

Non-surgical Methods:

  • Chemotherapy. The treatment used to shrink the tumor cells and is usually the first choice of treatment before other options are considered.
  • Cryotherapy. Another non-surgical treatment method used for retinoblastoma when the disease is not yet very severe and the patient may be able to keep at least part of their vision. This method is done by freezing the cancer cells, preventing it from metastasizing.
  • Laser Therapy. One of the last options used when treating retinoblastoma since it has a high risk of putting damage to healthy cells and tissues, and the possibility of triggering other tumors outside of the eye in cases of genetic retinoblastoma.

Surgical Method:

  • Enucleation. Also known as eye removal, is done when the disease is very severe that there is a high risk of it spreading to other parts of the body, or the chance of saving the child’s eyesight is zero.