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Retinoblastoma is a cancerous tumor that develops in the retina, a layer of nerve tissue at the back of the eye that detects light and sends images to the brain. Since it is a cancer of early childhood, retinoblastoma can affect the developing fetus in the womb, but it also occurs in newborns, infants, toddlers, and children up to 5 years of age.
Many parents see the first signs of retinoblastoma after noticing that their child’s pupils (the circular area in the middle of the iris, the colored part of the eye) appear whitish under a strong light source. Some parents notice the effect in photographs. This is because the pupil is translucent. Therefore, it is possible to see the tumors in the retina that are behind the pupil.
Although most children who develop retinoblastoma are born with the condition, only a few are diagnosed at birth. The average age of diagnosis is between 12 and 18 months. When diagnosed, most children are successfully treated and can retain good vision.