Most long-term survivors of retinoblastoma, particularly those who had been diagnosed with tumors by their first birthdays, have normal cognitive function as adults, according to a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital study. The research, which was published online on November 24, 2014 in the journal Cancer, found that the vast majority of survivors work full time, live independently, and fulfill other milestones of adult life. The study is the first to examine how adult survivors of retinoblastoma fare cognitively and socially decades after their diagnosis. The findings contrast with research involving survivors of other childhood cancers that suggest a younger age at cancer diagnosis may put survivors at risk for reduced cognitive functioning later in life. “As a group, adult survivors of retinoblastoma are doing quite well based on their cognitive functioning and attainment of adult social milestones,” said the study’s first and corresponding author Tara Brinkman, Ph.D., an assistant member of the St. Jude Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control and the Department of Psychology. “This suggests that for children whose visual system is damaged very early in life, the brain may compensate by reorganizing areas responsible for processing visual information to enhance processing of verbal and auditory information,” Dr. Brinkman said. “This highlights the importance of early intervention and rehabilitation for these patients.” Retinoblastoma is diagnosed in about 350 children annually in the U.S., and 95 percent of patients are younger than 5 years old when their tumor is identified. Today, more than 95 percent of retinoblastoma patients become long-term survivors. Previous research with retinoblastoma survivors focused on cognitive functioning in childhood. The results of those studies were mixed.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story