In Ireland and the UK, around 40 to 50 new cases of retinoblastoma are diagnosed each year, making it one of the rarest forms of childhood cancer.
In about two-thirds of cases, only one eye is affected, while in the remaining third tumours develop in both eyes. The number and size of tumours on each eye may vary.
If your child is showing one or more of the signs below, take them to have their eyes examined at the earliest possible opportunity.
A white pupil or reflection
A white reflection or pupil may be seen in a photograph where a flash has been used. Often, one eye will have the normal ‘red eye’, but the other may look white, yellow or orange. This may be seen in just one or many photographs of the child.
No 'red eye' in flash photograph
In a photograph where one eye has 'red eye', which is normal, the other eye may look black or just look 'wrong'. This can also be a sign that something is not right.
Although a squint can be nothing more than just a squint, it can also be a sign of retinoblastoma. So it’s always worth having it checked out quickly, just to make sure.
A red, sore or swollen eye without infection
A child's eye may become very red and enflamed for no reason. This symptom is usually accompanied by one or more of the other signs outlined here.
A change in colour to the iris
The iris, the coloured part of the eye, can sometimes change colour in one eye, sometimes only in one area.
Deterioration in vision
A child’s vision may deteriorate over time or they may have had poor vision from birth. You may notice that your child does not focus or ‘fix and follow’ as well as other children or babies of the same age.
Many of the signs mentioned above may also be signs of less severe condition, so if you notice any of the signs above, get your child checked quickly, if only to rule out retinoblastoma and give you peace of mind.
Retinoblastoma has one of the best cure rates of all the childhood cancers. In Ireland, around 98 per cent of children will survive, but early diagnosis really is important.
The priority of retinoblastoma treatment is to safeguard the life of the child, then to preserve vision and minimise any side effects or complications.
The exact course of treatment will depend on the individual case and will be decided by the Ophthalmologist, often in consultation with a paediatric Oncologist. Treatment options include cryotherapy, laser therapy, chemotherapy and enucleation, which is removal of the eye.
For further information about Retinoblastoma visit the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust.
If your child is experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, please make an appointment with the optical expert at your nearest Vision Express store.