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Retinoblastoma is a form of eye cancer that starts in the retina, which forms in the sensitive lining inside of the eye. It is most common in young children, but it can also occur in adults, albeit rarely.

The retina is made up of light-sensitive nerve tissue, sensing light as it comes through the front of the eye. It sends signals via optic nerve to the brain, where the signals are then interpreted as images. Retinoblastoma causes the cells of the retina to grow rapidly and out of control. Forty percent of all retinoblastoma cases is caused by a faulty gene, which may be inherited from the parents or develop randomly while the child grows in the womb. The faulty gene may affect both eyes. In the remaining 60 percent of cases, there isn't any faulty gene and only one of the eyes is affected.

While retinoblastoma is a rare form of cancer, it is the most common type of cancer that commonly affects the eyes of children. It may occur in one or both eyes, depending on the case, and affects children younger than 5. Detected early, there is a high chance that retinoblastoma can be successfully treated.

Diagnosing retinoblastoma involves shining a light into the child's eyes using specialized equipment known as indirect ophthalmoscope. If the cancer is found or if the child has a family history of retinoblastoma, he or she will be screened every few months or weeks, the frequency of which gradually reduces over time, although will continue for five years.

Retinoblastoma mostly affects small children and infants. Because of this, symptoms are rare. However, you can look for signs like a white color in the pupil (the center circle of the eye) when light is shined in it, such as during flash photography; eyes that seem to be looking in different directions; redness; and swelling. It is crucial to make an appointment with your doctor once you notice any concerning changes to your child's eyes.

Most cases of retinoblastoma are successfully treated when found early, before they can spread outside the eyeball. Treatment options for early-stage retinoblastoma include laser treatment to the eye or photocoagulation, freezing the tumor or cryotherapy, and applying heat to the tumor or thermotherapy. Larger tumors, however, may need more invasive procedures like stitching a radioactive disc or plaque over the cancerous cells to destroy the tumor, chemotherapy, or in worst cases, surgery to remove the eye, which might be necessary if the tumor is so large that the eye can no longer see.

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