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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

September 21, 2021, Ramasubramanian, Aparna, MD ,
Early Detection is the Key in Treating Retinoblastoma


Early Detection is the Key in Treating Retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma is an eye cancer that occurs in kids less than 5 years of age. The tumor is of two kinds – the sporadic tumor in which there is no mutation in all the cells of the body, and the germline tumor where there is mutation in every cell of the body.

The germline retinoblastoma is a heritable kind of cancer and children have a 50% chance of developing the tumor. The doubling time of retinoblastoma is 15 days and hence early detection has a major impact on visual outcome, eye salvage and life salvage. The tumor is usually detected by the white reflex seen in the pupil like in this nearby photo.

At Phoenix Children’s, we are attempting to pick up retinoblastoma tumors as early as possible. For families with a history of retinoblastoma, our Genetics & Metabolism Department starts genetic counseling before a child is born. The options available are:

  • Preimplantation testing
  • Early pregnancy detection using amniocentesis
  • Chorionic villus biopsy or late pregnancy detection using high definition ultrasound and fetal magnetic resonance imaging

New imaging tool

For families with retinoblastoma history, we also employ a non-invasive imaging tool called optical coherence tomography (OCT). This is a light-based test which takes special pictures of the back of the eye by imaging each layer of the retina (tissue in the back of the eye). With the aid of the OCT, we are able to detect tumors that are not clinically visible yet. This enables us to commence treatment at a very early stage of the tumor enabling better vision prognosis and tumor control. These occult tumors (red arrow in nearby photo) cannot be detected by a clinical exam until they are much larger, and by then they have affected the central vision.

The Phoenix Children’s Retinoblastoma Program is staffed with fellowship-trained, board-certified pediatric ophthalmologists. These leaders in retinoblastoma care are experts in ocular, pediatric and general oncology, interventional radiology and genetics — all working together to provide high-quality coordinated care to children and their families. Learn more about our Retinoblastoma Program or call us at 602-933-3937.

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