Charity warns squint can be a symptom of eye cancer in children

A squint can be a symptom of an aggressive eye cancer, according to a new survey – yet two out of three parents are unaware this could be affecting their children.

In a survey of more than 1,000 parents, commissioned by the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust and carried out by MMR Research last month, only 35 per cent identified a squint as one of the signs of retinoblastoma (Rb), a form of cancer that affects babies and children aged under six.

As this week marks World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week, The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust is urging parents to get their child’s eyes checked out if they have a squint.

A squint, or turn in the eye as it is also known, is where the eyes point in different directions. It is the second most common symptom of retinoblastoma, after a white glow in a child’s eye.

Last year nearly 40 per cent of children diagnosed with retinoblastoma had a squint.

Patrick Tonks, Chief Executive of the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust, said: ‘Around one child a week is diagnosed with retinoblastoma in the UK, or 50 a year, so it’s very rare and there is no reason for parents to be alarmed. In most cases a squint is completely harmless.

eye cancer

‘However we urge parents to have their child seen by a healthcare professional such as a GP or optician if they have a squint – or if they have any other concerns about their child’s eyes – just to rule out anything serious.’

Over 90 per cent of children diagnosed with retinoblastoma will survive but more than half will lose an eye in order to stop the fast growing cancer spreading – early diagnosis is vital to save a child’s eyes, sight and life.

The poll also found that 66 per cent of parents with children aged six or under had never had their eyes checked and 51 per cent had never heard of retinoblastoma.

Patrick added: ‘Rb can be very difficult to detect because children often seem perfectly well and many parents and healthcare professionals have never heard of it. This week is World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week and we are urging all parents to be aware of the symptoms and to have their child checked out if they have any concerns at all.’