What Is Retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is a rare type of cancer that affects the retina, which is the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye. This type of cancer can cause tumors to form in either or both eyes. Retinoblastoma can occur in any age group, but it is most commonly diagnosed in children under five years old. In this blog post, we will discuss what retinoblastoma is, its symptoms, and treatment options.

What Is Retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is one of the rarest cancers that develop in the retina. It usually affects young children, often before they reach the age of five. While retinoblastoma can occur in just one eye, it often affects both eyes. If not treated early, retinoblastoma can spread to other parts of the body and be fatal. There are two types of retinoblastoma, both of which we’ll discuss below.

Congenital Retinoblastoma

This type of retinoblastoma is present at birth or develops very soon after. In most cases, congenital retinoblastoma is hereditary, which means it’s passed down from a parent to a child. If one parent has the mutated gene that causes retinoblastoma, there’s a 50 percent chance their child will develop this cancer. However, not all children with a parent with the mutated gene will get retinoblastoma; only about three percent of these children will develop it.

Sporadic Retinoblastoma

The other type of retinoblastoma is not hereditary and does not usually occur until later in life. This type of retinoblastoma is caused by a mutation that happens during a person’s lifetime. Unlike congenital retinoblastoma, acquired retinoblastoma is not passed down from parent to child.

How Does Retinoblastoma Grow?

Like all cancers, retinoblastoma starts with a mutation in a cell. In the case of retinoblastoma, the mutated cell is in the retina. The retina is a layer of cells at the back of the eye that senses light and sends signals to the brain about what we see. The mutated cell reproduces quickly and forms a tumor. Retinoblastoma usually grows slowly at first, but it can grow quickly if it’s not treated. 

Retinoblastoma Symptoms

The earliest symptom of retinoblastoma is usually a white pupil (leukocoria) in one or both eyes. This occurs when the tumor reflects light back through the pupil, making it appear white instead of black.

Other symptoms of retinoblastoma may include:

  • Eye pain
  • Redness of the eye
  • Swelling of the eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Crossed eyes (strabismus)
  • Decreased vision

Retinoblastoma is diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, imaging tests, and biopsy.

Retinoblastoma Treatment Options

Retinoblastoma treatment depends on the tumor’s stage and location, as well as the child’s age and overall health.

Treatment options for retinoblastoma may include:

  • Surgery to remove the eye (enucleation)
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Laser therapy
  • Cryotherapy (freezing)
  • Intra-arterial chemotherapy (IAC)


In conclusion, retinoblastoma is a cancer that forms in the retina. It is the most common cancer of the eye in children. Retinoblastoma can be hereditary or non-hereditary. If you have a family history of retinoblastoma, you should be checked by an ophthalmologist regularly. Contact Hetzler Ocular Prosthetics Inc. if you have any questions or concerns about retinoblastoma.