By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A photograph that looks totally fine could reveal a potentially deadly cancer. It’s a tiny white spot in the eye, that most people wouldn’t even notice.
Three-year-old Makenzie Forman needs glasses to see. She had a rare eye cancer, that was diagnosed when she was just six-months-old. Her mother Becky says, “It was… fast moving because it was one doctor telling you this, then the next doctor. It was…obviously just extremely emotional.”
Makenzie’s parents didn’t realize the first signs of the cancer were in baby photos. Photographs of the twins show Makenzie’s sister has a red eye reflection, which is normal. But Makenzie had white dots in her pupils. Dr. Sara Lally, an oncologist at Wills Eye Hospital says, “The tumor is actually white in color so you are actually seeing the reflection of the tumor within the pupil itself.”
Dr. Lally was among the doctors who treated Makenzie for Retinoblastoma, a rare type of pediatric eye cancer that can be seen in photographs.
Bryan Shaw’s son Noah had the same kind of cancer in one eye. A photo when he was just 12-days-old showed the white reflection. His dad Bryan says, “The fact that this digital camera was picking up the white eye months and months before we ever saw it, was really just fascinating.” Noah and Makenzie both had one eye removed and now wear prosthetics.
Doctors were able to save Makenzie’s other eye with chemotherapy and laser treatments. Her parents say they wish they had known to look for white pupils in photos, perhaps they could have saved their daughters eye if the cancer was diagnosed earlier. Makenzie’s mom says, “Definitely we need to make parents aware that there is a potential out there for their children to have RB.”
Doctors say other signs of retinoblastoma include: pain, redness and eyes that don’t look in the same direction. They also say white spots don’t always indicate a problem, but should be checked.
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