December is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in the UK. One small charity is working extremely hard to make sure parents around the world ‘know the glow’ and take action if necessary.
Do you know the glow?
The ‘glow’ is a very subtle sign in a child’s eyes that their life may be at risk.
Childhood eye cancer ( retinoblastoma) is rare but can be deadly.
It can rob children of their sight, in most cases at least one of their eyes and from time to time, sadly, their life. For those affected they can face years of treatment, dozens of examinations under general anaesthetic and the life-long impact of living with an artificial eye.
Yet many parents have never even heard of it. More worrying, GPs too are failing parents by missing the symptoms – in 2012 72% of GPs who examined a child with retinoblastoma either missed the tumours altogether or misdiagnosed them as a less serious condition – delaying these children access to vital life-saving treatment.
Now the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) is campaigning to educate parents about the signs and symptoms so they can take action if they ever see the signs in their own child. Early diagnosis offers the best chance of saving a child’s sight, preventing the need to have their eye or eyes removed and ultimately will save their life.
In 2011 CHECT convinced the Institute for Child Health to publish the signs of retinoblastoma in the Personal Child Health Record (red book) as prior to this there was no public information at all about the condition which is found in around 50 babies and children in the UK each year.
As children with Rb, as it is known for short, often show no other signs of illness, it is crucial that parents know what to look out for and this is why CHECT has released a series of posters online during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in hope of using people power to share these vital messages. More than 100,000 people on Facebook have been reached so far since the beginning of the month.
The good news is there is a simple test our GPs can do to rule out anything serious. The red reflex test involves shining a torch into the eye of the child - the room should be dark so the pupils are nice and wide. But CHECT advise to print off details of the test from the website and take them to the GP to help explain any concerns you have. http://www.chect.org.uk/cms/index.php/signs-and-symptoms/who-to-see
The second most common sign of this eye cancer is a squint – often dismissed as a lazy eye, CHECT is doing its best to raise awareness amongst GPs and health visitors to ensure all children with suspected squints are automatically checked with the red reflex test before being referred to a squint clinic.
There are four other signs of Rb which you can read about here http://www.chect.org.uk/cms/index.php/signs-and-symptoms
CHECT’s campaign runs until the end of the month, you can help support their efforts by liking their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Childhood-Eye-Cancer-Trust-CHECT/123729324370622) and more importantly by sharing their awareness posters. It’ll cost you nothing but could save a life.
* Charity guest post *