Retinoblastoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the retina.
The retina is made of nerve tissue that lines the inside wall of the back of the eye. It receives light and converts the light into signals that travel down the optic nerve to the brain. The brain decodes the signals so that you can see the image.
Your retina is made up of nerve tissue that senses light as it comes through the front of your eye. The retina sends signals through your optic nerve to your brain.
A rare form of eye cancer, retinoblastoma is the most common form of cancer affecting the eye in children. Retinoblastoma may occur in one or both eyes.
Because retinoblastoma mostly affects infants and small children, symptoms aren’t common. Signs you may notice include:
- A white color in the center circle of the eye (pupil) when light is shone in the eye, such as when someone takes a flash photograph of the child
- Eyes that appear to be looking in different directions
- Poor vision
- Eye redness
- Eye swelling
Retinoblastoma occurs when nerve cells in the retina develop genetic mutations. These mutations cause the cells to continue growing and multiplying when healthy cells would die. This accumulating mass of cells forms a tumor.
Retinoblastoma cells can invade further into the eye and nearby structures. Retinoblastoma can also spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body, including the brain and spine
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your child’s doctor if you notice any changes to your child’s eyes that concern you. Retinoblastoma is a rare cancer, so your child’s doctor may explore other more common eye conditions first.
If you have a family history of retinoblastoma, discuss it with your doctor if you’re planning to have children.