Explained: What is retinoblastoma, the common eye cancer in children?

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The World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week was observed from May 15 to 21.

What is retinoblastoma?
Source: aoa.org

It is the most common cancer in the eye (malignant tumor) in small children. It can occur in one or both eyes and maybe hereditary or sporadic.

It can be life-threatening as well as take away vision if not treated timely and is detected by seeing White Reflex (WR).

Symptoms: a) White Reflex in the eye: Pupil that looks white or yellow instead of red when light hits it, b) Squinting: A crossed eye, looking either toward the nose or towards the ear, c) Poor vision with or without WR. The eye may be red or painful also.

Detection: Ocular ultra-sonography and fundus examination are the immediate OPD procedures. Its extent is determined by Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and systemic staging investigations.

Treatment: Retinoblastoma treatment is individualised for each patient. However, chemotherapy can be delivered intravenously or intra-arterial is the most common modality of treatment. This has to be followed up with local therapy, which is managed by the ophthalmologist using various modalities.

Disease burden in India: Nearly 1,500-2,000 children are diagnosed with retinoblastoma every year in India. The majority of these children belong to lower socio-economic strata of society.

Retinoblastoma has low treatment and survival rates due to lack of awareness, social stigma, poor access to care, high cost of treatment, lack of infrastructure, health professionals, good treatment protocols, quality drugs, diagnostics, and supportive care.

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: What is retinoblastoma, the common eye cancer in children? published in Indian Express on 21st May 2022.

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