A retinoblastoma is a cancer of the immature cells of the retina. It almost always manifests in children under the age of six and it is the most common malignant cancer of the eye in children. It is caused either by a genetic fault or a random mutation in the same gene.
Although it is rarely fatal, it usually causes loss of vision in the effected eye or the loss of the entire eye. In advanced cases, removal of the affected eye is the only effective treatment. In less advanced cases, less invasive procedures such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy can be attempted first.
Diagnosis of the condition starts by examining the retina through the pupil, which will show as an abnormal color. This is followed up by direct examination under anesthesia to distinguish it from less serious conditions with the same symptoms.
Although the disease is not common, all infants should be routinely screened for it as the original screening is non-invasive and a healthy retina rules out the condition. In many cases, it can progress until the child can complain about their vision, at which point it is more difficult to treat. Screening is a must for any infant who has a parent who had the condition.