Retinoblastoma is an eye cancer that begins in the retina — the sensitive lining on the inside of the eye. Retinoblastoma most commonly affects young children, but can rarely occur in adults.
The eye starts to develop well before birth. During early stages of development, the eyes have cells called retinoblasts, which multiply to make new cells that fill the retina. At a certain point, these cells stop multiplying and become mature retinal cells.
Rarely, something goes wrong with this process. Instead of maturing, some retinoblasts continue to grow out of control, forming a cancer known as retinoblastoma.
Retinoblastoma can either affect one or both eyes. If it affects both eyes, it’s usually diagnosed before a child is 1 year. If it affects one eye, it tends to be diagnosed later (between the ages of 2 and 3).
Because retinoblastoma mostly affects infants and small children, symptoms are rare. Signs that can be noticed may include;
- A white color in the center circle of the eye (pupil) when light is shone in the eye, such as when taking a flash photograph
- Eyes that appear to be looking in different directions
- Eye redness
- Eye swelling
The best treatments for a child’s retinoblastoma depend on the size and location of the tumor, whether cancer has spread to areas other than the eye, the child’s overall health, and the parents own preferences. The goal of the treatment is to cure the cancer. When possible, the child’s doctor will also work to preserve the child’s vision.
Treatments may include;
- Radiation Therapy
- Laser Therapy (laser photocoagulation)
- Cold treatments (cryotherapy)
- Surgery to remove the affected eye (enucleation)
- Surgery to place an eye implant
- Fitting an artificial eye
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