Diagnosis of Retinoblastoma

Diagnosis of Retinoblastoma

To diagnose retinoblastoma, following tests and procedures may be used:
  • Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken. The doctor will ask if there is a family history of retinoblastoma.
  • Eye exam with dilated pupil: An exam of the eye in which the pupil is dilated (opened wider) with medicated eye drops to allow the doctor to look through the lens and pupil to the retina. The inside of the eye, including the retina and the optic nerve, is examined with a light. Depending on the age of the child, this exam may be done under anesthesia.
  • Ultrasound exam: A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram.
  • CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the eye, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the eye. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).


The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
  • The stage of the cancer.
  • How likely it is that vision can be saved in one or both eyes.
  • The size and number of tumors.
  • Whether the patient has glaucoma.
  • Whether trilateral retinoblastoma occurs.

Stages of Retinoblastoma

The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the eye or to other parts of the body is called staging. The following tests and procedures may be used in the staging process:
  • Eye exam with dilated pupil
  • Ultrasound exam
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Lumbar puncture
The following stages are used for retinoblastoma: Intraocular retinoblastoma— Cancer is found in the eye but has not spread to tissues around the outside of the eye or to other parts of the body. Extraocular retinoblastoma— The cancer has spread beyond the eye. It may be found in tissues around the eye or it may have spread to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) or to other parts of the body such as the bone marrow or lymph nodes.

Recurrent Retinoblastoma

Recurrent retinoblastoma is cancer that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. The cancer may recur in the eye, in tissues around the eye, or in other places in the body. Tumors that were not treated with radiation therapy or surgery commonly recur, usually within 6 months.