The first thing to say is, retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer in children, is very rare. However, because it is rare, there is little awareness of the symptoms or even its existence. It is a fast growing cancer so early detection is essential.
Most common in children under the age of six, the survival rate is high but it is essential that parents and carers know what to look out for.
Change in iris colour, usually in just one eye.
A squint or lazy eye – a common issue in young children and one that is usually not a sign of retinoblastoma, but something that you must get checked by an optometrist.
A red, sore or swollen eye – a common symptom of conjunctivitis and other eye infections but again something that needs to be examined by an expert. Unlike with eye infections, the red, swollen eye will not be accompanied any discharge.
A white eye or glow in one or both eyes or no ‘red eye’ in photos. If you take a photo of your child and one eye is red in the picture but the other isn’t this could be a sign that needs investigated further.
Deterioration in eyesight – something that you should always have explored by your optometrist. Again, like many of these symptoms, more often than not this should not be a cause for serious concern but should always be examined.
About half of retinoblastoma cases are a result of a faulty gene which results in the condition affecting both eyes. The cause of non-genetic cases is unknown and in these cases only one eye will be affected. Early treatment is very effective and relatively non-invasive. If left untreated, the concern is that the cancer could spread to other parts of the body.
Any signs of retinoblastoma will be picked up in a routine eye examination. Yet another reason it is essential that you should take your child to see an optometrist at least every two years. And trust your instincts. If you notice any changes in your child’s vision or eyes, book in with your optometrist for a thorough eye examination. At Cameron Optometry we ensure children receive a comprehensive eye examination using market-leading technology, to give you complete peace of mind. Eye examinations for children in full-time education are free.
If you want more information on retinoblastoma, the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust CHECT, has a wealth of useful information on its site and provides invaluable support to those affected by the disease.