32% of parents of children aged 0-6 think a squint or lazy eye is ‘definitely not’ or ‘probably not’ a symptom of childhood eye cancer*. This is despite a third of all UK babies and children diagnosed with the rare eye cancer retinoblastoma (Rb) presenting with a squint as a symptom**.
As part of National Eye Health Week (21-27 September 2020), the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) is urging parents and healthcare professionals to ensure every squint is checked urgently by a GP or optician to rule out any serious underlying conditions.
A squint (also known as strabismus), is where the eyes point in different directions – for example, whilst one eye is looking ahead, the other may turn in, out, up or down. Squints can be present all of the time or can come and go.
Patrick Tonks, Chief Executive of the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust, said: “Retinoblastoma is a rare, aggressive eye cancer which affects babies and children under the age of six. We know squints are not uncommon in this age group, but it is crucial that every squint is checked by a GP or optician to rule out any serious underlying conditions. Over 98% of children diagnosed with Rb will survive, but more than half will lose an eye in order to save their life, so urgent referral and early diagnosis is vital to save a child’s sight, eyes and life.”
The main presenting symptoms of children diagnosed with Rb in the UK between 2012 and 2019**, were:
- Leukocoria (white glow in the eye seen in a photo where flash has been used, or in dim lighting) – 70%
- Squint – 33%
- Change in colour of iris – 12%
- Redness or swelling without infection – 7%
- Loss of vision – 7%
- Roaming eyes / child not focusing – 5%
- Absence of red eye (in a photo where flash has been used and one eye has red eye) – 1%
One child a week in the UK is diagnosed with retinoblastoma.
Five year old Nancy Smith was diagnosed with retinoblastoma after family members noticed she had developed an intermittent squint. https://chect.org.uk/a-photo-saved-my-daughters-life/.
*1,014 parents took part in the online survey, conducted by MMR Research Worldwide in Aug/Sept 2020. All parents had at least one child aged between 0-6 years.
** Data was gathered by the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust from parents of 268 children diagnosed with Rb in the UK in 2012-19.