The Ins and Outs of Retinoblastoma Screening

Early detection is hands-down one of the most critical components of a positive retinoblastoma outcome. Unfortunately, a single, universal screening for retinoblastoma has not yet been developed. This may be due to the fact that pediatric retinoblastoma is a particularly rare type of childhood cancer.

With no sure-fire test to identify retinoblastoma in children as of yet, there are a diverse number of options that play an important role in the detection and early treatment of the eye cancer.

Signs and Symptoms At Home

Many cases of pediatric retinoblastoma are caught in early stages due to vigilance on the part of parents. If any kind of abnormality in the eye is detected, a child should be brought in to see a doctor as soon as possible.

One of the most common signs of retinoblastoma is the absence of the red pupillary reflex that occurs when light is shown into the eye. If the pupil appears white instead of red in pictures or when light catches a child’s eye, it could be a tumor causing the phenomenon. The red reflex occurs because of the blood vessels in the eye, so a white reflex could be caused by an obstruction.

Eye Examinations and Check-Ups

Infant Vision DevelopmentRegular eye examinations by a doctor are extremely instrumental in detecting retinoblastoma. All babies should be taken to well baby exams as recommended so that simple tests can be performed that may reveal retinoblastoma symptoms or other eye problems.

Doctors will test the red reflex, but they will also check to see if the reflex is symmetrical, because an unsymmetrical pupillary reflex could be caused by a tumor that is not completely blocking the retina. Vision tests may help with detecting many kinds of eye problems, including retinoblastoma.

Special Monitoring for At Risk Babies

Babies who have a family history of retinoblastoma or who are known to have a mutation in certain chromosomes that have been linked to retinoblastoma should be carefully monitored for the disease. Instead of a regular pediatrician checking the eyes, an ophthalmologist should see the child beginning right after birth and continuing every 2-6 months for the first five years of the child’s life.

Scan Tests for Retinoblastoma

MRI Scan for RetinoblastomaIf one or more signs and symptoms show that a child might have retinoblastoma, scan tests are usually performed. MRIs and ultrasounds can show retinoblastoma tumors. If there is a chance that a retinoblastoma tumor has spread, bone scans can also be used to check for bone tumors.


Genetic Counseling and Screening

Genetic screening can help doctors to figure out if a child who is predisposed to the mutation that causes retinoblastoma actually has the mutation. If a child is found to have the heritable form of retinoblastoma, genetic counseling can help doctors to determine whether other family members need to be tested for the mutation.

Follow-Up Visits

It’s critical to ensure that children are consistently monitored throughout the course of their lives. Especially when retinoblastoma is diagnosed and treated, children must be carefully monitored for life for recurrent tumors in the eyes and new growths elsewhere in the body. Many children who have had retinoblastoma in one eye will develop retinoblastoma in the other eye within a few years. Environmental factors such as tobacco smoke may also greatly increase the odds of retinoblastoma patients developing other tumors later in life.