By Louise Forrest
Retinoblastoma is a common eye cancer which usually affects young children. You can usually tell if your child has Retinoblastoma if their photographs turn out showing a visible difference in one eye. Unfortunately many parents do not catch the early signs of the condition as they simply do not know what they are looking for.
What exactly is Retinoblastoma?
As mentioned, Retinoblastoma is the most common eye cancer in children, however it is still quite rare and it only affects around one in every 20,000 births. If caught early, it is possible to treat and cure the child of the cancer; however it can lead to the loss of the eye, or in severe cases, even death. Luckily, most cases found are cured and the survival rate is currently around 96%. Just under half the cases of Retinoblastoma are inherited, so if there is a family history of the cancer, it is best to get your child checked out.
The cancer starts by a tumor developing behind one of the eyes. In some cases tumors can develop behind both eyes and that usually results in the child having their eyes enucleated. However, this is extremely rare and usually the sight can be restored if caught early enough.
The Symptoms and What to Look Out For
As many parents do not know what to look out for in their child, it is often really difficult for them to diagnose Retinoblastoma. Usually the most common symptom of the disease is an abnormal appearance of the pupil, which as mentioned earlier is often detected in photographs. Any change in the appearance of the eye could be a potential symptom so you should always have it checked out by a doctor.
The Treatments Available
If you find that your child does have Retinoblastoma, it is important to know that there are a lot of treatments available these days in order to cure it. Early detection is better and it often leads to the child having their vision completely repaired. However, treatment varies depending upon how big the tumor has grown and how far the cancer has actually spread. Even if the tumor is removed, sometimes it is too late to save the sight of the child and the eye may need to be removed.
Some of the treatments available include:
Chemotherapy is often used to treat Retinoblastoma and it involves injecting the chemotherapy drugs into the body in order to kill off any cancer cells. In the case of a child with Retinoblastoma, the drugs are injected directly into the fluid which surrounds the brain.
This can be used as a treatment either on its own, or in combination with chemotherapy. It basically involves shining a strong laser beam through the dilated pupil, or the actual wall of the eye, into the cancer. It is a non invasive treatment and it is either done through general or local anesthetic.
External beam radiotherapy
This treatment is usually used when Chemotherapy has not worked. Retinoblastoma is really sensitive to radiation and so this treatment frequently works. The child is exposed to a certain level of radiation on an outpatient basis over five days a week. This is usually continued for around a month and the tumor generally reduces in size over time.
This treatment is used if the tumor has caused irreparable damage to the eye and if the tumor has reached a dangerous size. It generally involves removing the tumor and removing the eye. This is only usually done as a last resort and if the surgeon cannot save the eye without risking the life of the child.
Overall if the eye does have to be removed they will receive an artificial one which is as identical to their original one as possible. The child will make a full recovery from surgery and they can go on to lead a fulfilling and happy life. The main thing to look out for with your child is any changes within the eye. If you do spot anything unusual do not be afraid to consult a doctor. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry!
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