HOW SMARTPHONES DETECT EYE CANCER
We all know the many powers of a smartphone: it can track your daily calories, point you to the nearest gas station and, yes, even make and receive phone calls. And now it can do one more thing: detect retinoblastoma.
What is Retinoblastoma?
Retinoblastoma is a form of eye cancer found mainly in children under 5 years of age. This form of cancer affects the retina, the back part of the eye made up of nerve cells that convert light into neural signals, which the brain then translates to a visual image. Retinoblastoma develops when the eye is in its developmental stage, as cells are dividing and creating new cells to fill the retina. Normally, these cells will eventually stop dividing and form mature retinal cells. Retinoblastoma occurs when some of these cells continue to divide and grow, eventually growing out of control.
Retinoblastoma is a rare disease, with only 200 to 300 children a year being diagnosed with it each year in the United States. When caught early, retinoblastoma is treatable with radiation and chemotherapy, but left undetected it can result in eye loss and even death.
How Can a Smartphone Detect Retinoblastoma?
Take a photo of your child with a smartphone camera (or any digital camera) using a flash. If the resulting image shows a white dot or glow in the child’s pupil, this may be a sign of retinoblastoma. This visual effect can show up in one or many photographs of your child, and may also be seen when the child is in artificial light or in a darkened room.
Although a smartphone photo can be a powerful tool in the early detection of eye cancer, it should only be used as a precursor to a thorough eye exam from an experienced ophthalmologist who can diagnose eye conditions with more accuracy. If you suspect that your child has eye problems, have them examined as quickly as possible by a board-certified ophthalmologist. Retinoblastoma is an aggressive form of eye cancer, and early detection can mean saving the child’s eye and even their life.
What To Look for in Your Child’s Photo
According to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT), a UK charity that funds research and awareness of retinoblastoma, there are a few signs to look for in a flash photo of your child’s eyes, such as a:
- White glow or spot in one or both pupils
- “Red-eye” effect in only one eye
- Lazy eye, where one or both eyes are looking out or in
Other Signs of Retinoblastoma
- Red, swollen or sore eye without an infection
- Change in the color of the iris
- Deterioration in vision