Early Pediatric Retinoblastoma Detection

Early pediatric retinoblastoma detection and treatment is crucial to limiting the amount of damage that the cancer does to the eyes and can help stop it from spreading. While pediatric cancer treatment has improved substantially throughout the years, and there is a 90 percent survival rate for those diagnosed with pediatric retinoblastoma, many children lose full or partial vision and may suffer from prolonged side effects from the cancer or treatment. Scientists and physicians are working to improve screening methods in order to detect pediatric retinoblastoma earlier.

Early Pediatric Retinoblastoma Detection Screening Methods

There are a few commonly used methods for early pediatric retinoblastoma detection. In some cases, this screening can take place before the child is even born. This can be achieved through prenatal screening. After the child is born, red-reflex screening and proteomics may be used for early pediatric retinoblastoma detection.

Red-Reflex Screening

Red-reflex screening is the most commonly used method to screen for pediatric retinoblastoma, and is becoming increasingly common during well baby exams. During red reflex screening, the physician will dilate the baby’s eye and look for a white spot in the pupil, known as lukocoria. If there is no tumor, the light will reflex red. Lukocoria can indicate other conditions as well, so further tests must be done if the whiteness is detected. This reflection is sometimes noticed when taking the very first pictures of the baby, as a camera flash can cause the white effect, as well.

Prenatal Screening

If there is a family history of hereditary pediatric retinoblastoma, it is recommended that the mother allow prenatal screening for the genetic mutation that causes hereditary retinoblastoma. If this gene is detected, physicians may recommend delivery at 36 weeks, so that neonatal screening and possibly treatment can begin. Pediatric retinoblastoma grows rapidly around the time of birth, and detecting the condition as quickly as possible after birth can greatly impact the success of treatment in preserving life and eyesight.


Proteomics is a new type of testing that is being used to detect genetic markers that may indicate pediatric retinoblastoma, as well as other cancers. While use of proteomics is still being perfected, this promising new way of screening may eventually phase out more invasive or harmful methods of diagnosis. At the current time, imaging tests are most often used to confirm diagnosis after a physician suspects retinoblastoma.

Beginning Treatment after Detection

After pediatric retinoblastoma has been diagnosed, the patient is often referred to several specialists, including a pediatric oncologist and a pediatric ophthalmologist. These physicians will decide the most effective course of treatment based on the child’s age, the location and size of the tumor or tumors, and the presence of cancer in other body tissues. Treatment carries the highest likelihood of success with no lasting effects when begun before two months of age, therefore physicians will attempt to begin treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis.


“About Retinoblastoma.” Retinoblastoma International. Retinoblastoma International, n.d. Web. 4 Dec 2013. <http://www.instituteforfamilies.org/rbi_earlydetect.pdf>.

Lohmann, Dietmar, and Brenda Gallie. “Retinoblastoma.”PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 28 Mar 2013. Web. 4 Dec 2013. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1452/>.

“Retinoblastoma Treatment.” National Cancer Institute. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 24 Oct 2013. Web. 5 Dec 2013. <http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/retinoblastoma/healthprofessional>.