Brazilian Natural Medicine

Early diagnosis of retinoblastoma prevents childhood blindness — Português (Brasil)

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Early diagnosis of retinoblastoma, the most common intraocular cancer in childhood, is essential for successful treatment and prevention of childhood blindness. This is because most cases detected at an early stage are curable, most of them with preservation of vision. This tumor can occur in one or both eyes.

This Sunday (18), National Day of Awareness and Encouragement of Early Diagnosis of Retinoblastoma, the Ministry of Health reinforces the need for parents and guardians to be aware of children and, at the first signs, seek immediate medical help. The Unified Health System (SUS) offers, free of charge, care, assistance, diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of retinoblastoma cases. Patients are welcomed in specialized centers of reference in the High Complexity Care Units in Oncology (UNACON) or High Complexity Care Centers in Oncology (CACON).

Retinoblastoma is a rare malignant tumor that originates in the cells of the retina – part of the eye responsible for vision – and affects one in every 18,000 live births. Almost all cases occur in children under five years of age and may be present at birth.

The main symptom, present in 90% of cases of retinoblastoma, is leukocoria, a white reflex in the pupil, known as the ‘cat’s eye sign’. Other symptoms that may appear are strabismus, eye redness, low vision, pain and eye protrusion.

The Eye Test or red reflex test (TRV), performed in the first three days of life in the maternity ward and three times a year in the first three years, is performed by the SUS and can help to identify the problem. The TRV is a test for the early detection of congenital eye problems.

Normally, a red color is seen in the pupil when the ophthalmoscope light is inserted. This reflex is absent, diminished or white in case of opacity of the ocular structures. The main causes of changes in the RRT are congenital cataract, retinoblastoma, retinopathy of prematurity, congenital glaucoma, among others. If any problems are identified in the examination, the newborn must be urgently referred to the specialized ophthalmological service of reference.

Early detection of the disease is essential for better chances of cure with preservation of the eye and vision. The best results are obtained when the identification of the disease occurs while it is still intraocular. Patients with delayed diagnosis may have advanced disease and potentially life-threatening vision loss.


The treatment is complex and requires a specialized multidisciplinary approach, which includes a pediatric oncologist, an ophthalmologist, an interventional radiologist, a genetic counseling service and the entire healthcare team. Treatment is individualized according to the presenting characteristics of the disease.

Ministry of Health

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