Detecting Pediatric Retinoblastoma: Different Stages, Signs & Symptoms

What Is Pediatric Retinoblastoma?

It is a malignant tumor that develops within the eye’s retina, which is the thin nerve tissue of the eye responsible in sensing light and transmitting images to the brain. This disease may occur at any age, but it commonly occurs during the early stages of childhood, usually before a child reaches the age of five. Retinoblastoma may either occur in only one eye or both eyes, but if left untreated, it may metastasize to other parts of the body.

The Four Stages Of Pediatric Retinoblastoma

In order for the physician to be able to plan the treatment for retinoblastoma, two factors need to be considered to determine the stage of the cancer: the size of the tumor, and its location.

  • Intraocular Retinoblastoma. The cancer cells are found unilaterally or bilaterally, but does not affect the tissues surrounding the eyes or other parts of the face.
  • Extraocular Retinoblastoma. The cancer cells have started spreading to areas outside the eye. The cells may be confined only to the tissues surrounding the eye, or it may have already spread to other parts of the body.
  • Trilateral Retinoblastoma. Sometimes, children with bilateral retinoblastoma may have a third tumor that develops in the pineal gland of the brain (the gland that produces melatonin, which is the sleep hormone). This tumor may cause nerve disorders and must be diagnosed as early as possible, because treating it may require a different approach.
  • Recurrent Retinoblastoma. From the name itself, it means that the cancer cells have returned or progressed after treatment has already been done, and it may recur either in the eye or somewhere else in the body.

Common Signs And Symptoms Of Pediatric Retinoblastoma

  • White Pupillary Reflex (Leukocoria). The most common early symptom of the disease. It is diagnosed by shining a light in the eye and the color of the pupil is checked. If the color is red (blood vessels in the back of the eye), the eye is normal; but if the color is white or pink, the eye has retinoblastoma.
  • Lazy Eye (Strabismus). A condition in which one eye is facing a different direction than the other. Though this may have other possible causes in children, it can also be caused by retinoblastoma.

When To See A Doctor

If you notice something unusual about your child’s eyes, contact your physician as soon as possible. Pediatric Retinoblastoma is a rare form of cancer, so the physician may consider other eye conditions first. However, if your family has a history with the disease, then you should consult with the physician and ask when your child should begin undergoing regular eye exams to screen for retinoblastoma.