National Eye Health Week – 23rd – 29th September 2019

26 September 2019



Children with eye cancer who present with leukocoria are over two and a half times more likely to get an urgent referral than children who present with strabismus, UK charity the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) has found.

Retinoblastoma is an aggressive form of eye cancer which affects babies and children up to the age of six. Over the last seven years around 70% of children with retinoblastoma have leukocoria as a symptom, 33% present with strabismus.

Whilst multiple symptoms can be present at the time of referral, figures* released today by CHECT to mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month 2019 show that amongst children seen by a healthcare professional presenting with just one symptom and subsequently diagnosed with retinoblastoma:

  • 58% of those who presented with leukocoria received an urgent referral
  • 21% of those who presented with strabismus received an urgent referral

The figures also showed that those children with strabismus were also more than twice as likely to experience a delay in diagnosis:

  • 19% of children presenting with leukocoria waited over two months for a referral
    • Of these 7% waited over six months.
  • 42% of children presenting with strabismus waited over two months for a referral
    • Of these 12% waited over six months;

Patrick Tonks, Chief Executive of CHECT said: “We understand that squints are common amongst this young age group, and this is perhaps a factor behind these figures. We therefore urge any healthcare practitioners (including optometrists) presented with a child with a new onset strabismus to undertake careful examination to rule out serious underlying conditions such as retinoblastoma. More than half of all children diagnosed with retinoblastoma lose an eye to save their life. It is therefore crucial that children exhibiting symptoms are examined, and where appropriate referred, as quickly as possible.”

Around one child a week is diagnosed with retinoblastoma in the UK. Early diagnosis is essential in order to save a child’s eyes, sight and life. Sadly, more than half of children diagnosed with retinoblastoma will lose an eye to stop the cancer spreading. NICE guidelines state that a child should be referred urgently (for an appointment within two weeks) if retinoblastoma is suspected**.

For more information on symptoms and referral protocol visit .