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What Is Retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is a type of eye cancer that affects the retina, the inner layer of the eye. Nerve cells in the retina sense light and send images to the brain and allow us to see.

Retinoblastoma causes tumors (clumps of cells) to grow in the retina. This happens when the nerve cells grow out of control. This means the eye can't communicate with the brain as it should.

Retinoblastoma can happen at any age, but most cases are in children younger than 2 years. Tumors can be in one eye or both eyes. They rarely spread to other parts of the body.

Retinoblastoma can be treated.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Retinoblastoma?

The most common early sign of retinoblastoma is leukocoria (a cloudy white pupil). In bright light, the pupil can look silvery or yellow.

Other signs include:

  • eyes that are not lined up as they should be
  • crossed eyes
  • a pupil that is bigger than normal
  • a cloudy iris (the colored part of the eye)
  • poor vision

What Causes Retinoblastoma?

Most cases of retinoblastoma are caused by a genetic mutation (a change in a gene).

Heritable retinoblastoma can happen:

  • when a child inherits a mutation (change in a gene) from a parent. Often, the baby will be born with retinoblastoma.
  • spontaneously in a fetus during pregnancy. Most of these children will develop retinoblastoma before they are 1 year old.

This form of retinoblastoma usually affects both eyes and can cause more than one tumor in each eye.

Sporadic retinoblastoma happens when a gene mutation happens in early childhood, usually after 1 year of age and affecting just one eye. Doctors don't know why this happens.

How Is Retinoblastoma Diagnosed?

A pediatric