Child’s Eye Cancer Illustrates Need for Early Diagnosis

Senior female doctor examining little child boy.

Parents can help to prevent a child’s delayed cancer diagnosis by recognizing the early warning signs of cancer.

As a recent article illustrates, picking up in small changes in your child could play a major role in making sure that your child receives a timely diagnosis and begins necessary treatment – although that treatment, itself, may present many financial challenges.

The article discusses Ryu Okumura-Haas, a child diagnosed with retinoblastoma in 2015. The article describes the condition as “the most common malignant cancer of the eye in children.”

As the child’s mother explains, she sought medical attention when she detected a “strange glint” in her child’s left eye, which showed up in a flash photo that she took of the young boy.

That “strange glint” was one of the early warning signs of retinoblastoma. Unfortunately, by the time of his diagnosis, doctors estimated that Ryu had been “blind in that eye for at least two years,” according to the article.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Child Cancer?

If cancer is caught early enough, the disease can be treated and potentially save the child’s life. But how do you know what signs to look out for in your child?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) provides an exhaustive list of different types of cancer. It also explains in detail the different signs and symptoms of each disease. As a parent, this website serves as an excellent source of information.

For instance, for retinoblastoma, the ACS states that one of the main signs is simply an “unusual” look in a child’s eye.

Other signs and symptoms of the disease include:

  • White pupillary reflex (or, when the pupil appears white or pink upon being illuminated with a light), which can appear as the “strange glint” detected in the photo of Ryu
    Lazy eye (or, when eyes do not appear to be looking in the same direction)
  • Vision problems
  • Eye pain
  • Redness in the white part of the eye
  • Bleeding in the front part of the child’s eye
  • Bulging eye
  • Pupil that does not get smaller when it is exposed to a bright light
  • Different color in each iris of the child’s eye.

If you detect something “unusual” about your child’s condition, going to the ACS website is a start – but only a start. It is crucial to follow up on what you learn by going to your pediatrician, who may then refer your family to a specialist.

Treatment of a Child’s Cancer Can Be Costly

As the article underscores, cancer treatment can be extremely costly, from chemotherapy to post-treatment visits to the doctor.

In Ryu’s case, the cancer which originated in his retina metastasized, or spread. He needed to undergo surgery to remove the tumor.

Afterwards, Ryu began chemotherapy treatments, which required him to stay in the hospital through both Christmas and New Year’s Day.

His mother reported that Ryu’s birthday occurred soon after those holidays, and the young patient had to remain in the hospital for his birthday, as well.

Additionally, Ryu’s mother lost her job shortly after his diagnosis. When she lost her job, Ryu also lost his health insurance coverage. As a result, the mother paid for his chemotherapy and other related healthcare costs out-of-pocket.

Fortunately, Ryu’s community rallied around him. Many in the community helped to organize a fundraiser at a local church. The event managed to raise almost $30,000 toward the boy’s medical care.

Thankfully, when children and parents face the difficulties of dealing with cancer, they do not have to face them alone.

“He’s an amazing boy,” Ryu’s mother told the newspaper, “and despite the odds, he’s still fighting.”

It is inspiring to read that, in Ryu’s case, his community joined him in the battle.

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