Pediatric Retinoblastoma Complications

Pediatric retinoblastoma is a rare type of cancer that affects the retina of the eye, usually in children under the age of five. Pediatric retinoblastoma is either hereditary or non-hereditary. While both types carry the risk of complications, hereditary retinoblastoma has a higher risk of complications due to the nature of the disease and the frequency with which cancer affects both eyes.

Hereditary Pediatric Retinoblastoma Complications

About 40 percent of all cases of pediatric retinoblastoma are hereditary. In most cases, one parent carries the gene mutation that causes the disease, and that parent does not display any symptoms. Hereditary retinoblastoma is often caught sooner than non-hereditary, as it typically develops in the womb and can be caught during the baby’s first check-ups. While catching the disease early can be helpful, there is a high risk of complications such as recurring tumors and development of cancer in other parts of the body.

Recurring and Secondary Cancers

Due to the high probability of developing secondary cancers, it is often necessary to take the child in for periodic screenings after hereditary pediatric retinoblastoma has been successfully cured. Patients will remain at higher risk for cancers, and should always make doctors aware of the early retinoblastoma. The mutated gene is present throughout the body, so cancer can occur in any other body tissues. Radiation therapy can further increase the risk of cancer development.

Pediatric Retinoblastoma Treatment Complications

Patients with pediatric retinoblastoma may experience complications after treatment. Since treating pediatric cancers is highly individualized, many patients are treated using clinical trials. These may present unknown side effects. Chemotherapy and drug therapy may also present risks such as development of other chronic diseases and adverse reactions to the drugs.

Surgery and Visual Impairment

In many cases, doctors must resort to enucleation, which is the surgical removal of the eye in order to treat the cancer. In cases where both eyes are affected, the doctor will use surgery to treat the eye that is most compromised, and will treat the other eye using other methods to preserve as much eyesight as possible. If enucleation must be performed, some visual impairment is unavoidable, as physicians cannot restore vision to an eye that has been removed. If there is no alternative, doctors may have to do surgery on both eyes, resulting in pediatric retinoblastoma blindness.

Pediatric Retinoblastoma Complications without Treatment

Complications from pediatric retinoblastoma without proper treatment include:

  • Visual Impairment
  • Blindness
  • Further progression of cancer
  • Development of other diseases
  • Death

Pediatric Retinoblastoma Treatment Success

Despite the complications involved with treatment, over 90 percent of pediatric retinoblastoma cases are successfully cured. This number has increased dramatically in the last thirty years, as improved treatment and detection methods have been discovered. Research in this area is ongoing as physicians and scientists strive to lessen the complications surrounding treatment and improve screening methods.


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