Retinoblastoma - Causes, Prevention and Treatment
Retinoblastoma happens when the nerve cells in the retina change. They can grow in size and number. The cells inevitably form a tumor that spreads. It is mostly found in children, but can rarely occur in adults.
How could I know if my child has it?
It typically develops in childhood, before the age of 5. Children who have Retinoblastoma are affected only in one eye. There are one out of three cases that can affect both eyes. The first sign is visible whiteness in the pupil and can be seen during dim lighting or flash photography.
There are other symptoms like having crossed eyes or squinting, blindness or poor vision, and a change in the color of their Iris.
What are the cause and prevention?
There is no known preventive measure per se. This condition is mostly due to a genetic abnormality or mutation. If your parents or spouse has Retinoblastoma, there is a chance that your child could inherit this condition.
Specifically speaking, mutations in the RB1 genes are responsible for most of the cases. RB1 is a tumor suppressor gene that prevents the uncontrollable division of cells. Any mutation or deletions in the area of chromosome 13 that contain the RB1 gene can cause Retinoblastoma. The person who regulates the multiplication of cells is fired, which causes cancer.
Tests that can be done!
- Eye exam and history
It is always best to get your child's eye checked once you notice any of the symptoms. You should immediately get expert medical opinion. The doctor will perform an eye exam as well as a study on the family health history to rule out Retinoblastoma.
A small magnifying lens and a light are used to examine the inside of the back of the eye to check the retina and optic nerve.
- RB1 gene test
It is a lab test used to determine if there is any change in the RB1 gene. A sample of blood or tissue is tested for this purpose.
- Ultrasound and MRI
The echoes produced by the Ultrasound help to take a picture of the inside of the eye and the distance from the retina to the cornea are determined. MRI can give even more clear and detailed images of the region.
How can it be treated?
Many factors like the number of eyes affected, age, severity, and whether the condition is hereditary or non-hereditary can determine the type of treatment that can be implemented.
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
Both these procedures are common in most treatments for cancer. Both treatments are effective and have their risks involved.
- Laser therapy
Various types of laser treatment are available nowadays that can be used to heat and destroy body tissues. Laser photocoagulation uses a laser beam aimed through the pupil.
It is most effective for smaller tumors towards the back of the eye.
- Cryotherapy and thermotherapy
As the names would suggest these elements are used to ultimately destroy the cancer cells. Cryotherapy uses a cold substance that freezes the target cells and then once that happens the substance, as well as the frozen cells, are thawed out. Thermotherapy or Tranpupillary thermal therapy is performed using heat to kill the cancer cells.
If the severity of the tumor is high, there is no other option but to surgically remove the eye to avoid the further spread of cancer. Even though losing an eye can affect a child's vision, since they are young they can adapt very well over time.
Keep an eye on your child!
Your child's health is important. It is always better to be cautious than sorry. Having a regular check of your child's health should be a priority. Retinal Cancer could be genetic or non-hereditary. The latter is easier to treat. An eye exam can determine whether the child has the condition or not.
Rarely adults could also get Retinoblastoma, so never hesitate to get an expert medical opinion from Esehati, which has the best doctors in UAE in expert panel. The best Ophthalmologist in Dubai has concerned eyes for you!