Camera Flashes Catch Eye Cancer in Children

Your smartphone camera flash can detect a rare eye cancer, potentially saving a child’s life.

That was the case for an Arizona mother who inadvertently detected retinoblastoma in her young son after using a flash phone camera to take pictures of him. Andrea Temarantz noticed a white glow in the left eye of her son Ryder in the photographs she’d taken. Suspecting it was due to a faulty phone camera, Temarantz switched to a better device. When the white spot remained, she took Ryder to see a doctor. The physician identified a tumor, and diagnosed him with retinoblastoma, a potentially fatal eye cancer.

Upload: March 9, 2016

While rare, retinoblastoma is a very aggressive eye cancer found almost exclusively in young children. Leukocoria (white pupil) and misaligned eyes (strabismus) are the most common symptoms. In other cases, the child may have developed neovascular glaucoma and may be in pain. Retinoblastoma treatment typically requires the cooperation of an ophthalmic oncologist, pediatric oncologist, and radiation therapist. Over the last 30 years, treatment has evolved from enucleation (removal of the eye), to eye-sparing radiotherapy. More recently doctors have treated selected patients  with chemotherapy-based multi-modality therapy.

An early diagnosis is critically important for successful treatment. Retinoblastoma is almost always fatal when left untreated.

When flash photography creates a white pupil in the eye of a child, it could be that the light is illuminating a tumor not otherwise visible. While a white spot in the eye is not always indicative of a tumor, a visit to the doctor for a diagnosis is always a good precautionary measure.

Temarantz’s experience was not an isolated case. A Rockford, Illinois, child owes his life to a camera flash and a vigilant parent. Julie Fitzgerald noticed a white spot in showing up in photos of her son Avery’s left eye. After reading stories online about similar cases, she decided to take her son to see a doctor. Avery was ultimately diagnosed with retinoblastoma. Unfortunately, his left eye had to be removed, but the diagnosis saved his life.

Using a smartphone’s camera flash to detect a potential instance of retinoblastoma is effective enough that the UK-based Childhood Eye Cancer Trust conducted an ad campaign in 2014 to raise awareness of its life-saving potential for early detection.

To learn more about early detection of metastasized eye cancer, click here:
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