A Little More About Retinoblastoma

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Before Derek Fisher missed one-and-a-half games of the NBA Western Conference Semifinals, I'd never heard of Retinoblastoma.

Retinoblastoma is a cancerous tumor of the retina found in about 300 children a year. While the Jazz were continuing their improbable run towards the Conference Finals, Fisher was with his ten-month-old daughter was in New York, where she was receiving experimental treatment for this scary condition. Surgery was successful, and Fisher made it back for the third quarter of game two. That night, he led Utah to victory over Golden State. A feel good moment for sure.

But knowing the name of the disease is not the same as knowing the symptoms. This point was made in Bill Simmons' blog by reader Jason Christie, whose son's retinas are also plagued.

"My son, myself and other Retinoblastoma sufferers would greatly appreciate if you mentioned what to look for in a line of your blog. I got lucky and noticed something wrong in photos of my son. A major indicator of Retinoblastoma is 'white eye' in photos instead of the normal 'red eye' that we all get. Something as simple as noticing that can mean the difference between losing sight, the disease spreading or worse."

Here are a few additional warning signs, courtesy of St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

  • A white reflex, known as a cat's eye reflex, appears in a child's eye. Often this is evident in a photograph taken with a flash. In this age of digital cameras and computer graphics programs, it is easy to touch up a photo and eliminate a "flaw." Noticing such a flaw can save a child's life.
  • The eyes are crossed or turn in or out slightly.
  • A child has different colored irises—for example, one blue eye and one brown eye.
  • A child complains of not being able to see or focus, or bumps into things.

Please note: Not all white reflexes are retinoblastoma. Other causes of white reflex include: congenital cataracts, Coats' disease and PHPV (persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous) infections. Additional studies are needed to confirm the diagnosis of retinoblastoma.

Although I wear glasses and watch Grey's Anatomy, House and Scrubs, I am not (technically) an eye doctor. So if there's an eye doctor in the audience with further knowledge, feel free to speak up.

May 16, 2007 - 4:52am
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