Smartphones save lives. They can be used to navigate unfamiliar roads and connect to emergency services with the push of a button.
These days, mobile devices are also equipped with features that can detect eye cancer. Using a stock camera app found in most handheld devices, anyone can turn their smartphone into a cancer-seeking instrument.
“Diagnosing retinoblastoma continues to be a major challenge. One of the most effective methods for detecting it appears to be amateur photography. In a majority of retinoblastoma cases, it is the parents that initiate the diagnosis based on seeing leukocoria or ‘white eye’ in photos of their children,” mentioned Bryan F. Shaw, Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences.
What is Retinoblastoma?
The type of eye cancer your smartphone can spot is retinoblastoma, a highly aggressive disease that commonly targets children under the age of five. In hereditary occurrences, a mutated chromosome 13 or RB1 gene causes the cancer to develop bilaterally (both eyes). Though it should be noted that in roughly 66 percent of reported cases, only one eye is affected.
Almost all patients survive this form of cancer, but the risk of permanent vision loss is incredibly high due to tumors that form inside the retina. Because of this, early detection is vital in preserving one’s eyesight.
There are several ways to officially diagnose retinoblastoma, most requiring a licensed doctor or ophthalmologist. For parents who want to casually screen their child, a smartphone is sufficient for detecting traces of the rampant cancer.
How Do Smartphones Spot the Problem?
A quick snap of a child’s eye (with flash) from a manageable distance is the key to uncovering the disease. After taking a photo, parents need to closely scrutinize the image for any signs of retinoblastoma. According to the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT), this is one of the most effective ways to check for its presence.
“Our hope is that, years from now, retinoblastoma ceases to exist, and no child ever has to experience the trauma of losing their eye, their sight, or their life. It’s this mission that drives our research into a cure for the disease — which really is within our grasp,” said Joy Felgate, CEO of CHECT.
Under low artificial lighting, the cancer becomes easier to spot. Individuals should look for a hazy, light ring around the child’s pupil, also known as white eye. It might be necessary to repeat the process a few times just to be sure before scheduling an appointment with the family doctor.
Saving Kids One Photo at a Time
The cancer screening technique is already being applied by parents around the globe. One of the most gripping success stories comes from Rockford. Avery, a two-year-old boy who was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, was brought to a specialist after his mother picked up on the signs while viewing photos that were taken with a mobile device.
Further tests revealed the tumor covered over 75 percent of the affected organ. Doctors were forced to remove the entire eye to prevent the cancer from spreading. Avery’s case is one of many reports that surfaced since the groundbreaking method went viral.