We’re working with the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) to raise awareness about retinoblastoma amongst the optical community. Babies and young children will not be able to tell you if they are having problems with their vision, so as an opticial practice all the staff knowing the signs is crucial for saving sight, eyes and ultimately, lives.
Petra from CHECT has kindly written a blog for us this week to explain how training your staff to recognise the signs of retinoblastoma is important for getting the best outcomes.
Optical support staff such as receptionists, optical assistants and dispensing opticians can play a key role in expediting diagnosis of children with retinoblastoma, a national charity says.
The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust is asking optometrists to take five minutes to run through a simple protocol with their staff.
The optical assistants and receptionists’ referral protocol for suspected childhood eye cancer explains in clear, lay terms the key symptoms of retinoblastoma, and the correct action to take if any of these are mentioned by a parent contacting the practice.
Crucially, it prompts front of house staff to ask WHY when parents request an appointment for a baby or young child.
“We know it is very unusual for parents of babies and young children to seek optician appointments. Taking a few moments to simply ask why they are concerned about their child’s eyes could reveal crucial information like having noticed a white glow in the eye or a newly onset squint, both of which can be symptoms of eye cancer. Such information should be a red flag that the child must be examined urgently, by an optometrist or GP.” said Patrick Tonks, Chief Executive of the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust.
“Last year, half of optical practices approached by parents of children later diagnosed with eye cancer refused to see the children, because of their age.* The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust is urging optometrists to take a five-minute coffee break with their support staff to run through this simple protocol”.
Hampshire-based independent Rawlings Opticians are supporting the initiative. Director Rachael Ley-Smith says:
“Optical assistants, receptionists and dispensing opticians are on the frontline when it comes to parents requesting appointments or advice regarding their babies or toddlers. It’s really important that staff have the necessary knowledge to identify possible concerns sooner. We know that there have been cases of parents not being offered appointments because a practice might not examine this age group, which can lead to delays in diagnosis if the parents are not directed to seek urgent advice elsewhere. Please take five minutes to make sure your support staff are aware!”
Over 90 per cent of children diagnosed with Rb will survive but more than half will lose an eye in order to stop the cancer spreading. It is a very aggressive cancer, so early diagnosis is vital to save a child’s sight, eyes and life.
The main presenting symptoms of children diagnosed with Rb in the UK between 2012 and 2017*, were:
• Leukocoria – 64%
• Squint – 33%
• Change in colour of iris – 13%
• Redness or swelling without infection – 7%
• Roaming eyes / child not focusing – 7%
• Loss of vision – 7%
• Absence of red eye – 1%
For more information on the optical assistants and receptionists’ referral protocol for suspected childhood eye cancer, please contact Petra Maxwell
. The protocol can be viewed here