New report suggests that it will be easy to spot eye cancer if you have a smartphone. The camera on our smartphones can detect eye cancer generally found in children under the age of five, reveals a British non-profit organisation working in the field of childhood cancer. The flash from a smartphone camera can easily spot retinoblastoma (Rb), the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT), which works in the field of childhood cancer, said.
Retinoblastoma is a rare type of aggressive eye cancer that almost exclusively affects young children generally under the age of five. It develops as a tumor in the retina, eye’s light-sensitive tissue, but can be diagnosed with just a smartphone. Children who have the disease often have a white glow around their pupils that shows up when photographed with a flash.
Retinoblastoma usually occurs in two forms – Genetic and ‘Non-genetic’ form. Approximately, 45 per cent of children with Retinoblastoma have the heritable form of the disease. The tumor is considered to be one of the less common cancers of childhood. In UK, it accounts for only about 3 out of every 100 cancers occurring in children under the age of 15 years. Between 50 and 60 children are newly diagnosed each year. Early detection of the cancer could save a child’s vision, eyes and life.
Julie Fitzgerald, mother of a 2-year-old kid Avery whose life was saved with the help of smartphone, said that she just had this gut feeling that something was wrong with her son’s eye as she had seen odd spots in his eyes in photos, and then took her son to the doctor who confirmed the presence of cancer. Since the operation, Avery has made a full recovery but unfortunately lost his eye to the disease.
Spotting a white flash in a child’s pupil isn’t a definitive diagnosis of retinoblastoma, but it’s always worth following up, say doctors. When caught early retinoblastoma is very treatable. Current technology and chemotherapies can save the baby’s life and vision.
Any patient with a white spot in the eye, squint or any type of shine in the eye balls should be taken to the eye doctor immediately for test, failing which it becomes dangerous and the child may lose his eyesight and it may even affect the brain. The retinoblastoma disease, once detected, can be cured with surgery, laser surgery, or by chemotherapy. But even after surgery, the eye sight will not be saved in these cases, warn doctors.
As a diagnostic tool, smartphone cameras are so effective that the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) even ran an ad campaign last year centred on the trick. They put up posters of children’s eyes that flashed white when photographed thanks to the use of reflective ink. CHECT said that with the average person spending hours of their life staring at their phone screen, they should put the devices to better use to look for the eye disease. Its another example of phones we carry in our pockets every day can be lifesaving devices.