When your child is diagnosed with cancer, it can feel overwhelming. This phase involves finding out if your child has cancer and determining the type of cancer they have. Children’s cancer can be difficult to diagnose as many symptoms are similar to those caused by less serious conditions or injuries. This means that your child may need several tests and medical appointments before you receive confirmation that your child has cancer.

If your doctor thinks your child has retinoblastoma, your child will have several tests, including a:

  • Medical history and physical exam
  • eye exam
  • blood tests
  • medical imaging, such as
    • ultrasound of the eye
    • computed tomography (CT) scan
    • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Our section, How is cancer diagnosed? explains these tests in more detail.

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Doctors use staging to describe how much the cancer has grown. Some of the tests will also help to stage the tumour. Staging determines:

  • Where the tumour is
  • How big the tumour is
  • What nearby tissue it affects
  • If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body

Your doctor will use this information to determine the best way to treat the disease. Staging will also give your doctor an idea of how well these treatments are likely to work (prognosis).

How doctors assess the stage or extent of disease varies. They use a combination of scans, blood tests and examination of the back of the eye to determine the stage. If the eye is removed, this is also used to determine the extent or stage of the disease.

The American Cancer Society describes other systems for staging retinoblastoma.