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Retinoblastoma is a cancer of the eye that is most often seen in children younger than five years of age. It occurs in hereditary and nonhereditary forms. Symptoms may include a condition called "white eye," crossed eyes, and pain or redness in the eye. Treatment options may include such things as enucleation, radiation therapy, cryotherapy, and chemotherapy.

What Is Retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is an eye cancer that most often occurs in children younger than five years of age. It occurs in hereditary and nonhereditary (sporadic) forms.

Understanding Retinoblastoma

The retina is the nerve tissue that lines the inside of the back of the eye. It senses light and sends images to the brain by way of the optic nerve.
Although retinoblastoma may occur at any age, it most often affects children younger than five years of age. The tumor is usually found in only one eye, but can develop in both eyes. Retinoblastoma rarely spreads from the eye to nearby tissue or other parts of the body, and it can usually be cured.


Retinoblastoma is sometimes inherited (passed from the parent to the child). Such cases of the cancer caused by an inherited gene mutation are referred to as hereditary retinoblastoma. It usually occurs at a younger age than retinoblastoma that is not inherited. Retinoblastoma that occurs in only one eye is usually not inherited (called sporadic retinoblastoma). When it occurs in both eyes, it is always inherited. When the hereditary form first occurs in only one eye, there is a chance it will develop later in the other eye.
After a diagnosis of retinoblastoma in one eye, regular follow-up exams of the healthy eye should be done every 2 to 4 months for at least 28 months. After treatments are finished, it is important that follow-up exams continue until the child is seven years of age.
Treatment for both types of retinoblastoma should include genetic counseling (a discussion with a trained professional about inherited diseases). Brothers and sisters of a child who has retinoblastoma should also have regular checkups and genetic counseling concerning the risk of developing the cancer.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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