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Campaign 2018/1

Seeing white: 
eye cancer in children

For a long time now, affected parents have been stressing the importance of making the public aware of the early warning signs of eye cancer. Unlike other cancers, you don’t have to be an expert to recognise the symptoms. With early diagnosis and correct treatment, 95 per cent of children can be cured. The latest campaign from Childhood Cancer Switzerland is intended to do just that: create an awareness for eye cancer in children.

Clinical picture

Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer. It develops in the retina and occurs almost exclusively in childhood. In most cases, only one eye is affected; both eyes are affected in less than one third of children. 

Retinoblastomas usually grow quickly. They can spread within the eyeball and, from there, also into the eye socket and along the optic nerve into the central nervous system. In an advanced stage of the disease, they also seek access to other organs via the blood and/or lymph system. If left untreated, the disease is almost always fatal. With early diagnosis and correct treatment, virtually all children can be cured.

Maja Beck Popovic

Offering the best quality of life for affected children is her highest priority

Prof. Maja Beck Popovic, head doctor of paediatric oncology at the University Hospital in Lausanne (CHUV)

Interview in German


The cause for the development of a retinoblastoma is a double genetic change (mutation) in the retinal precursor cells, the retinoblasts.

Early recognition

The most common initial symptom is a white light in the pupil in a flash photo as opposed to a red or a black pupil in a healthy eye. This can be seen in more than two thirds of children with the disease. A simple flash photo can show parents that their child might have retinoblastoma. And there are other warning signs:

  • Change in the colour of the iris
  • Deterioration of vision
  • Signs of cross-eyedness
  • Reddened and inflamed eye

The appearance of one or more of these signs does not necessarily mean retinoblastoma. Nevertheless, it is advisable to consult an ophthalmologist as soon as possible to clarify the cause.

Detailed information can be found on the website of the Children’s Eye Cancer Foundation Germany KAKS:

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Children’s Eye Cancer Foundation Germany KAKS for their cooperation and the provision of photo and video material.

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Early recognition of eye cancer in children
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