There are several different procedures doctors can use to diagnose retinoblastoma, including:
- Funduscopic eye exam: The patient is anesthetized and the pupils dilated so the retina can be examined
- Ultrasound of the eye
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- Blood tests
- DNA and/or genetic testing
If there is family history of retinoblastoma, young children should get regular exams to see if any tumors have formed. A diagnosis may be made before there are any symptoms. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the patient’s outcome is likely to be.
Staging is process doctors use to find out if cancer has spread within the eye or to other parts of the body. Doctors use the information gathered during the staging process to plan a patient’s treatment.
While there are several staging systems for retinoblastoma, learning whether the cancer has spread plays the biggest role in forming a treatment plan. (source: National Cancer Institute)
Intraocular retinoblastoma: Cancer is found in one or both eyes. It may be only in the retina or also may be in other parts of the eye such as the choroid, ciliary body, or part of the optic nerve. Cancer has not spread to tissues around the outside of the eye or to other parts of the body.
Extraocular retinoblastoma: 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.
Ophthalmologists also use a scale, called grouping, that classifies the eye or eyes with the disease. An eye can be grouped from A to E (best to worst) based on the chance that the eye itself can be saved.