Glow of the Month: Retinoblastoma

Posted on 2019-01-03

The mission of Know The Glow is to raise awareness and understanding of a symptom of over 20 different eye conditions and diseases — a signal that may be looking you straight in the eye. “The Glow” is a white or golden reflex that sometimes looks like a cat-eye reflex. It’s scientific name is “Leukocoria”. You can read more about detecting “the Glow” in this article.

One of the most dangerous conditions that can could cause “the Glow” is Retinoblastoma, or cancer of the eye.

This cancer occurs most frequently in children in the first five years of life. It is the most common intraocular malignancy in childhood. While treatment of Retinoblastoma has improved dramatically in the last 20 years, the most powerful tool we have against RB is early detection.

Treatment often includes chemotherapy and radiation to target the tumors in the eye. If the tumors are unresponsive and there is no possibility of regaining sight in the affected eye or eyes, doctors may suggest enucleation — removal of the eye.

Because retinoblastoma is typically a childhood cancer, parents and guardians need to be particularly aware of “the Glow.” Children do not often recognize that something is wrong with their eyesight and, if they do, they may not be able to communicate it.

In addition to studying photos of their children for signs of “the Glow,” parents have come up with creative solutions to monitor their children’s eyesight.

For example, Evie’s mom noticed something peculiar in her daughter’s eye. She covered one of Evie’s eyes at a time to check her vision. Evie was an infant and could not communicate verbally, but her behavior changed dramatically when her unaffected eye was covered. She became agitated and fearful, indicating to her mother that Evie could not see well out of the uncovered eye.

The earlier Retinoblastoma is discovered, the better the chance for the child to retain sight. Evalynn is a great example. Her mother, Vanessa, became worried when she noticed that Evalynn’s eye would drift to one side. Vanessa acted on her concern and had Evalynn’s eyes examined.  When she was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, chemotherapy and freezing treatments were started immediately. Incredibly, because of the early intervention, they were not only able to stop the tumor’s growth and but were also able to shrink it in size.  

Children diagnosed with Retinoblastoma in time can go on to live happy, full lives. Two remarkable women, Fiona and Sylvia were diagnosed and had their eyes enucleated decades ago. Please read their stories to learn how both women have lived wonderful lives full of joy and achievement.

As with all of the diseases and conditions indicated by “the Glow,” it is so important to identify the symptoms as early as possible. Remember, if you see “the Glow” once, be aware. If you see it twice, take action and bring your child to the doctor for screening.

To learn more about Retinoblastoma and the methods of treatment, visit the Mayo Clinic.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Retinoblastoma and would like to share their story, please email us at info@knowtheglow.org.