The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust has released figures which show that children and babies with retinoblastoma are increasingly delayed essential treatment due to GPs missing the symptoms of the eye cancer.
According to Claims Magazine, It was found that in 2012, a staggering 72% of GPs failed to make an urgent referral for children potentially suffering from the life-threatening cancer.
Retinoblastoma is quick to develop, and affects children between the ages of 0 and 5, with diagnosis in 6-year-olds being rare. Around 80% of children diagnosed with retinoblastoma are below the age of 3.
While it is potentially fatal, when treated promptly it has the highest cure rate of all childhood cancers, but can lead the removal of affected eyes if action is not taken quickly.
One of the easiest ways of identifying retinoblastoma is by an abnormal pupil appearance, and is often noticed thanks to flash photography when the affected pupil looks white. There’s also the chance that a squint can occur.
The CHECT found that misdiagnosed eye cancer was often attributed instead to a lazy eye or conjunctivitis, while some parents were told there was nothing to worry about – despite the symptoms. The trust has launched an awareness campaign to properly highlight the symptoms and effects of retinoblastoma to help parents spot the problem early on.
Chris Rodgers from First4Lawyers said of the worrying findings, “Cases of medical negligence are made all the more distressing when it’s children who are put at risk.
“GPs have a responsibility to give patients an appropriate level of care, but when standards fall, lives can be changed – sometimes irreversibly.”
Chief Executive of CHECT, Joy Felgate, said: “We have known for years that most families suffer unacceptable delays in getting a diagnosis for childhood eye cancer. From the discussions we have conducted with the majority of parents whose children were diagnosed in 2012, it appears the number of delays is worse than we feared.
“This is just the start of our work to gather a firm picture of the problems parents face because some health professionals are not recognising the signs of retinoblastoma.”