Bone Scan

Retinoblastoma is a rare form of children’s cancer that affects the retina of the eye. If there is a family history of the genetic mutation that causes retinoblastoma or if the disease has been allowed to progress as in the case of a delayed diagnosis, there may be reason to do a bone scan. A bone scan is conducted to determine whether the cancer has spread to the bones, particularly in the skull.

Retinoblastoma Diagnosis Bone Scan

Most retinoblastoma patients do not receive a bone scan, as it is only done in cases where the doctor suspects that the cancer may have spread beyond the eye and into the bones. If the visible symptoms of retinoblastoma are severe, or if imaging tests have shown evidence that the cancer has spread, a bone scan may be necessary. If the patient has hereditary retinoblastoma and there is a family history of retinoblastoma that has spread to the bones, doctors may recommend a bone scan even if there is not yet evidence that the cancer has spread to the bones.

Retinoblastoma Bone Scan Procedure

Prior to having a bone scan, a radioactive material is injected into the patient’s vein. This material will take a few hours to set into the body, and will settle into areas in which there are abrasions within the bone. During the test, the patient will lie on a table for about 30 minutes while pictures are taken using a special camera that detects the radioactive material. This may require sedation in some cases, especially if the child is very young.

Interpreting the Results

The images from the bone scan will be used to detect abnormalities in bone density which may indicate retinoblastoma that has spread beyond the initial sight. The radioactive material will appear to be condensed in areas of the bone that have been affected by retinoblastoma. However, other bone diseases may cause similar bone scan results.

Retinoblastoma Bone Scan Results

Doctors will usually request further testing if results of a bone scan indicate that retinoblastoma may have spread to the bones. To rule out other conditions, X-rays and MRIs may be done. If there is a strong likelihood of bone cancer after these tests have been conducted, a bone biopsy and bone aspiration may be performed to determine whether the cancer has spread to the marrow of the bones. These tests are often performed at the same time. Bone biopsies and bone aspiration can be painful, so the child is often sedated prior to these tests.


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