Malignancy or cancer in children is currently dominated by leukemia or blood cancer. However, there is a type of cancer in children that is also often found, especially in Indonesia, namely retinoblastoma. Simply put, retinoblastoma is cancer of the eye. Before explaining further about what retinoblastoma is, you need to note to immediately take your little one to the eye doctor if you find white spots on the eyeballs that look like beads.
According to data from the Department of Pediatrics, RSCM, retinobalstoma is the third most common cancer in children. The problem is, patients often come late, for various reasons. Some parents consider this malignancy in the eye as a common eye disease.
In addition, because access to health facilities is difficult to reach, many parents choose alternative medicine. This was explained by dr. Endang Windiastuti Sp(K), a pediatric cancer consultant from Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, Jakarta, in the webinar series of the Indonesian Children’s Oncology Foundation (YOAI), Saturday, November 13, 2021.
“Retinoblastoma examination can be done in several health centers with a tool called a funduscopy. With fundoscopy, the normal fundal reflex is a red eyeball. If the reflection is white or not red, it must be referred to an ophthalmologist,” explained Dr. Endang.
Also read: Caring for Your Little One’s Eyes
Symptoms of Retinobalstoma Are Often Considered Another Eye Disease
Retinoblastoma is a malignancy in the eyeball or intraocular that occurs in infants and children. The growth of retinoblastoma cancer cells is generally very fast. Symptoms of retinoblastoma are easy to recognize, namely there are white eye beads in the center of the eyeball that will glow in the dark, like a cat’s eye at night.
Prof. dr. Rita Sita Sitorus, PhD, Sp.M(K) from FKUI/RSCM added that retinoblastma is actually rare, but is the most common case in children. Usually afflicts children under the age of 5 years.
The cause is a genetic mutation, so it cannot be prevented. Retinoblastoma can cause blindness and even death. However, if found at an early stage it can be cured.
In addition to white eye beads (leukoria), children with retinoblastoma will experience other symptoms such as crossed eyes, red eyes, eye inflammation, blurred vision and protruding eyes.
“This white tumor bead in the eye indicates the tumor is still in the eyeball, but it is large enough to be treated with laser or cryotherapy. Unfortunately, it is often misdiagnosed regarding the presence of white beads in the eye. Often considered a harmless disorder. Even sometimes mistaken for cataracts or other eye diseases. Should be referred to an ophthalmologist every time there is a sign of this leukoria to be quickly evaluated for the cause, “explained Prof. Rita.
Misdiagnosis also often occurs if the symptom is crossed eyes (strabismus). “Don’t underestimate the cross eye in children, it is necessary to check whether the cause is retinoblastoma or other causes,” said Prof. Rita.
Red eyes are also a symptom of retinoblastoma which is often considered ordinary inflammation, and only eye drops are given. Parents should be alert if the child’s eyes are red and do not go away with eye drops. Especially if it is accompanied by a squint or white bead where the child complains of blurry vision, and eyes that glow at night. According to Prof. Rita, this misdiagnosis often occurs during an examination at an orderly or general practitioner.
Also read: Recognize the Signs of Crossed Eyes in Children and How to Overcome It
Therapy for Retinoblastoma
The goal of retinoblastoma therapy is to make the child live without cancer, save the child’s eyeball, or maintain the child’s vision function. Treatment is done with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, depending on the stage of the disease.
According to Prof. Rita, in the early stages doctors do not need to remove the eyeball, only kill cancer cells in the eyeball. If the cancer is advanced then the eyeball is removed followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
Unfortunately, added Prof. Rita, many parents refuse the therapy recommended by the doctor. For example, there is a fear that lifting the eyeball will cause disability. In fact, after therapy can be paired with a false eyeball (prothesis) that can move the eyeball.
“They choose alternative therapy, and when it doesn’t work, come back to the doctor with a more severe condition where the eyeball has protruded where the therapy is more difficult to do,” explained Prof. Rita.
So for Mums, immediately take your child to the eye doctor if you find white spots in the eyes and other symptoms of retinoblastoma.
Also read: 5 Eye Health Problems That Often Occur In Children