Retinoblastoma in children: Early detection and treatment is important

Dr. Rajesh R.

World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week is celebrated in May every year. This year it falls between May 8-14, when healthcare providers around the world come together to create public awareness about retinoblastoma. It is the most common and deadly eye cancer in children under five years of age. It can affect any socio-economic group, regardless of race or gender. It can affect one or both eyes. It is a type of eye cancer that starts in the retina – the sensitive lining inside the eye. This is quite rare and is usually caused by a genetic mutation that causes the eye cells to grow rapidly and result in an abnormal growth. With advanced strategies, the survival of children with retinoblastoma has improved but low awareness is still a cause for concern. Therefore early detection and treatment is vital for controlling malignant growth, thereby saving the vision and life of the baby.

Each year, 1 out of every 10,000 live births in the world has a retinoblastoma, and in India this is 3 times the global average and has been recorded as the highest number of infected babies in the world. While the survival rate of retinoblastoma in developed countries is over 95%, it is around 40-75% in developing countries like India due to a combination of multiple factors such as poverty, illiteracy, lack of awareness, delay in treatment and delay in treatment. Lack of access to healthcare resources. Caring for children with retinoblastoma during the epidemic was challenging because the nationwide lockdown deprived retinoblastoma patients of optimal management. The full impact of the epidemic in retinoblastoma management is not yet known, but it is important to raise awareness about the timeliness of diagnosis and treatment.


Some early cancers may have signs and symptoms that can be noticed, but this is not always the case. In the early stages, the symptoms may be so subtle that the child may find it appropriate, but delay in diagnosing retinoblastoma may lead to an advanced stage of presentation that may require rapid removal of the affected eye. The most common representation of this disease is abnormal light reflection “white eye”, or “cat’s eye reflection” usually referred to by neighbors or relatives. It can be easily detected using flashlight photography as a white reflector. Other common symptoms are squinting, swelling, irritation and watery eyes. Sight is quickly lost and the child may be hit by frequent objects. There are other eye diseases that may present with similar signs and symptoms as retinoblastoma. This should be confirmed after evaluation by an eye oncologist.

Diagnosis and treatment

Early diagnosis has a good chance of preserving vision and eyeballs. In some cases, if caught late, eyeballs may need to be removed to prevent the cancer from spreading throughout the body. Scans and other imaging tests can help your child’s doctor determine if retinoblastoma affects other structures around the eye. Through advanced chemotherapy techniques and topical therapies, we have been able to preserve vision in many cases. Retinoblastoma requires multidisciplinary integrated care, and involves the involvement of multiple specialties, including ophthalmology, oncology, radiology, genetics, anesthetists, and others.


Since retinoblastoma is inherited from most genes, there is no specific mechanism of prevention. But taking the best care of your eyes on a regular basis can help reduce the risk. Awareness of retinoblastoma is very important, especially when the world is in an epidemic. Many patients have reported eye infections after Covid and should not be ignored. Eye infections may seem like a small problem, but if left untreated they can be serious, so we should always have regular medical check-ups, especially for children because caution is always better than cure.

It is important to note that cancer is more likely to return after retinoblastoma treatment. In addition, children who have inherited this genetic mutation are more likely to develop cancer in other parts of the body, so regular follow-up and screening is essential.

(The author is Consultant, Vitrioretina and Ocular Oncology Shankara Eye Hospital, Bangalore. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult with medical professionals and health professionals before starting any therapy, medication and / or remedies. Opinions expressed are not personal and reflective .com’s official position or policy.)

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