This site is intended for health professionals only

Read the latest issue online
The scheme shaking up nursing

Squint can be symptom of childhood eye cancer, charity warns

Squint can be symptom of childhood eye cancer, charity warns

Practice nurses should ensure every squint in children is checked urgently to rule out eye cancer, a charity has urged.

The caution came from the UK charity The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) after 32% of parents with children aged 0 to 6, from 1,014 surveyed, thought a squint or lazy eye is ‘definitely not’ or ‘probably not’ an eye cancer symptom.

However, a third of all UK babies and children diagnosed with the rare eye cancer retinoblastoma presented with a squint as a symptom.

The CHECT is now asking practice nurses to ensure every squint in children under 6 is sent on to a GP or optician to rule out any serious underlying conditions.

Its chief executive Patrick Tonks said that squints are ‘not uncommon’ in this age group, but that it is ‘crucial’ that each is ‘checked out’.

He continued: ‘Over 98% of children diagnosed with retinoblastoma will survive, but more than half will lose an eye in order to save their life so urgent referral and early diagnosis is vital to save a child’s sight, eyes and life.’

This warning comes just before National Eye Health Week next week (21 to 27 September). One child a week is diagnosed with retinoblastoma.

The main presenting symptoms of children diagnosed with retinoblastoma in the UK between 2012 and 2019 included:

• Leukocoria (white glow in the eye seen in a photo where flash has been used or in dim lighting) – 70%
• Squint – 30%
• Changing in colour of iris – 12%
• Redness or swelling without infection – 7%
• Loss of vision – 7%
• Roaming eyes/child not focusing – 5%
• Absence of red eye (in a photo where flash has been used and one eye has red eye) – 1%

 Tape strips that can differentiate between eczema and psoriasis have shown promise in a study, published earlier this year.

Skin biopsies are particularly difficult to carry out in small children, so this could be an important development to diagnose those suffering from skin conditions at an early age.

See how our symptom tool can help you make better sense of patient presentations
Click here to search a symptom

Visit Nursing in Practice Reference for details on 140 symptoms, including easily searchable symptoms and categories, offering you a free platform to check symptoms or search by category during a consultation to look for guidance on next steps.