This week is the World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week. Retinoblastoma is the most common eye cancer in children which as per the reports, affects 1 in 18,000 children every year across the world It arises from the retina of the eye that is responsible for visual perception.
Retinoblastoma is the most common among infants and young children and, in the majority of Retinoblastoma cases, it occurs in one eye (unilateral retinoblastoma), whereas in some instances, both eyes can be affected (bilateral retinoblastoma). The cancer has the risk of spreading to the brain through the optic nerve of the eye and through the blood to the whole body.
Retinoblastoma is a completely curable eye cancer if detected early and treated the right way.
What are the symptoms, precautions and treatment of Retinoblastoma?
According to Eye specialists, the most common symptoms of Retinoblastoma are:
- Eye pain
- Eye redness
- Enlargement of eye
- Vision not focusing properly
- Severe headache
- Double vision
- Weakness of eye muscles “Coria”
- Severe light sensitivity (photophobia)
- Bleeding in the front of the eye
- Shrunken eye ball
Precautions and treatments of Retinoblastoma
Eye experts say preventing retinoblastoma is not possible but children who have a family history of the disease must be taken for regular eye exams from birth. This way the disease can be detected early and the chances of survival significantly increase.
As mentioned by eye specialists, treatments of Retinoblastoma vary according to the stage of the disease. The common treatments include:
- Cryotherapy – This method is appied to destroy the tumour by applying ice and freezing it.
- Laser therapy – Laser therapy techniques include thermotherapy in which doctors use lasers to destroy cancer tumours with heat.
- Chemotherapy – In this technique, chemotherapy drugs are injected through the vein or artery. It is the mildest of the chemotherapy and children tolerate it well.
- Radiation – This kind of therapy can kill the cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying. A provider may also recommend a type of radiation therapy called radioactive plaque therapy for an effective treatment. In it, the radiation device is directly applied on top of the eye to treat the tumour.
What are the risk factors of Retinoblastoma?
Eye specialists say some variations in the genes or genetic mutation is considered to be the risk factor for retinoblastoma. In about 40 per cent of cases, the genetic form is responsible for this type of cancer and always affects very young children, especially those who are 1 year old or younger.
Experts also say the gene responsible for this rare form of cancer is known as RB1. When retinoblastoma occurs in both the eyes, the genetic condition happens to be the link. Rarely, does the genetic form result in damage to only 1 eye. Despite that, only 10-20 per cent of children with the disease have a family history associated with retinoblastoma.
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Another risk factor for this form of cancer is the young age. Further, the majority of children diagnosed with the disease are below the age of five years, and several of them are even infants. Though children of every race can develop this condition, the ones from the underserved communities face the worst outcomes due to inadequate healthcare facilities.
It’s said that scientists are also studying various possible links to the disease like environmental factors and paternal and maternal factors.
Although Retinoblastoma is a curable childhood eye cancer, eye specialists suggest that it is important to detect it early by the parents and grandparents and step ahead for possible treatment.