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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

May 10, 2021, Aparna Ramasubramanian, MD
Screening and Detection of Retinoblastoma
Anyone Can Have a Stroke – Yes, Even Kids

Retinoblastoma is a cancer that occurs in the eyes of children less than 5 years of age. This year, World Retinoblastoma Week is being celebrated from May 10-16, 2021. We would like to take this opportunity to spread awareness about this disease to facilitate early diagnosis and timely management.
Retinoblastoma is a tumor arising from the back of the eye (retina) and is a tumor that is caused by a gene mutation. Approximately 40% of retinoblastoma tumors occur because of a mutation that affects all cells in the body and these patients can transmit the mutation to their kids. Untreated retinoblastoma is fatal. Early detection of the cancer is critical to save lives, to save the eye and to get the best visual outcome. 

The treatment options for retinoblastoma include laser, freezing treatment, systemic chemotherapy, local chemotherapy with intra-arterial drug delivery, chemotherapy injection directly into the eye (intra-vitreal chemotherapy), radiation treatment and eye removal in advanced cases.

Know the glow
Retinoblastoma is often detected by a yellow glow seen in the pupil of the eye replacing the normal red eye that is seen while taking photographs. If you, a family member, or friend has this unusual reflex please seek medical care as quickly as possible. Photographs with the yellow reflex have been brought to attention even in social media posts and have saved kids’ lives! There can be other causes of the white reflex, but immediate medical attention should be sought to rule out retinoblastoma. 

Vision screening
Pediatricians and schools perform vision screening, but unfortunately, they are done during the school age bracket and misses the age group when retinoblastoma commonly occurs. Phoenix Children’s Hospital is looking at ways to start performing vision screens in kids at birth to detect these tumors as early as possible for better outcomes.

Family history of retinoblastoma

For families with a known history of retinoblastoma, there are different stages of intervention:

  1. Before conception: After genetic counselling and testing, it is possible to test the sperm and ova to find the ones without the mutation and allow in vitro fertilization to avoid the disease in the newborn.
  2. Early pregnancy testing: Early pregnancy testing using amniocentesis and chorionic villus biopsy can be used to detect the mutation in the fetus.
  3. Late pregnancy testing: Starting 32 weeks of gestation, the fetus is monitored for tumors in the eye with ultrasound and MRI and if tumor is detected early intervention is planned.

Retinoblastoma care at Phoenix Children’s

Children diagnosed with retinoblastoma receive top-quality care at Phoenix Children’s, a retinoblastoma center of excellence. Our program and team is led by Medical Director, Aparna Ramasubramanian, MD, a highly sought-after expert in ocular oncology with fellowship training in both pediatric ophthalmology and ocular oncology. 

Each child in our program benefits from state-of-the-art diagnoses and treatments. We work side by side with a multidisciplinary team of pediatric specialists including an ocular oncologist (ophthalmologist), pediatric oncologist, geneticist, radiation oncologist, interventional radiologist, and other support staff to provide coordinated, expert care and ensure the very best outcomes.

For more information on our program and retinoblastoma, visit our website or call 602-933-3937.

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