Retinoblastoma in children and young adults

What is retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is a type of eye cancer that begins in the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye. It develops when cells within the retina called retinoblasts grow uncontrollably and form one or more tumours in the eye.

Types of retinoblastoma include:

  • Heritable retinoblastoma – caused by a genetic mutation that is inherited or occurs in the womb. Heritable retinoblastoma usually affects both eyes and can result in multiple tumours
  • Sporadic (non-heritable) retinoblastoma – develops when a gene mutation occurs in early childhood. Sporadic retinoblastoma is only ever associated with a single tumour in one eye

According to the Singapore Childhood Cancer Registry, retinoblastoma is the eighth most common childhood cancer in Singapore accounting for 3.2% of all cases and primarily occurs in children under the age of five years.

Signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma

The most common sign of retinoblastoma is a cloudy white pupil or white glare upon shining a light into the eye, known as a white pupillary reflex or leukocoria. This is often visible in a flash photograph or during an eye exam.

Other symptoms of retinoblastoma in children or young adults include:

  • Eyes that appear to look in different directions
  • Redness of the white part of the eye
  • Eye swelling or bulging
  • Pupils that don’t get smaller when exposed to light
  • Eye pain
  • Vision issues

Treatment for retinoblastoma


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