Three hundred U.S. children a year are diagnosed with retinoblastoma. Even though this rare eye cancer can be deadly, it has a 90 percent cure rate if caught early. Doctors say the best thing you can do is keep up those eye exams and know what to look for.
Retinoblastoma screenings are often done in maternity wards on newborns and by pediatricians in the first few years of life.
"That's because 75 percent of retinoblastoma patients are detected because a doctor or parent notices the color inside the pupil of the eye is lighter in one eye than the other and that's because it's actually the tumor inside that eye that's actually being seen," said optometrist Dr. Greg Marrow.
While the average diagnosis occurs at 18 months, the disease can be detected earlier. New treatments are becoming available every day. Plaque therapy and cryotherapy are allowing patients alternatives to chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
"The neat thing about these particular procedures is that not only do they preserve sight, but so far they have not been able to link these procedures to getting secondary cancer later in life," Marrow said.
One way to tell if a child has this condition is by looking at snapshots of the child. If the child's eyes are white in every flash picture taken of them there could be a problem.
"Imagine that same picture, but instead of the redeye it actually comes back white. That's what often times we look for which is called leukocoria," Marrow said.
But Marrow said parents shouldn't completely rely on photographs.
"Because it can still be missed depending on the angle of the light. The best thing to do is take your child to somebody who is trained whether it's an eye doctor, obviously they are the most trained, but to make sure the child gets their regular pediatric screenings," he said.
If you think your child may have retinoblastoma, you should contact your family physician or eye doctor.