One third of parents do not believe a squint is a symptom of childhood eye cancer

The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust released its findings ahead of National Eye Health Week

LM child eye test 1
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One third of parents do not think that a squint is a symptom of childhood eye cancer despite it being the second most common symptom, according to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT).

Research by the UK charity has revealed that 32% of parents of young children think a squint or lazy eye is ‘definitely not’ or ‘probably not’ a symptom of childhood eye cancer.

1,014 parents took part in the online survey, which was conducted in August and September 2020. All parents had at least one child aged between birth and six years old.

According to data gathered by CHECT from parents of 268 children diagnosed with retinoblastoma in the UK in 2012-19, a third of all UK children diagnosed with the condition presented with a squint.

As part of National Eye Health Week (21-27 September 2020), CHECT is asking optometrists to ensure that every new onset squint, even in very young children, is examined to rule out any serious underlying conditions.

Patrick Tonks, chief executive of CHECT, 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 new onset squint, even in very young children, is checked to rule out retinoblastoma.

“If your practice does not examine babies and small children, ensure the parents understand that urgent arrangements must be made for the child to be examined elsewhere (another optometrist or ophthalmologist who does examine young children, or their GP).”

Mr Tonks added: “If retinoblastoma cannot be ruled out, an urgent referral must be made. Around 98% of children diagnosed with retinoblastoma 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.”

CHECT has more retinoblastoma guidance for optometrists on its website.