Baby girl receives shock cancer diagnosis months after family spot peculiar squint

National Eye Health Week Web Video

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With regard to her treatment, Orla requires six rounds of chemotherapy and will reach the halfway point of treatment when she receives the third dose next week.

Speaking about the diagnosis, Orla’s grandmother Angela said: “When Orla was diagnosed we were in shock. It all happened so quickly. She has spent more time in hospitals than at home recently. She has required platelet infusions, blood transfusions and antibiotics.”

In a bid to support their ill family member, Angela and Orla’s aunts Susan and Gill have decided to donate blood.

Angela said of the move: “We decided as a family that we should donate blood in her honour. Myself, my daughter Susan, and my sister Gill all gave blood. Ten of my friends and family said they would donate this week which is wonderful. We…are committed to doing this long-term.” Angela said they planned to donate blood again in 12 weeks.

Meanwhile, Orla’s fight continues with the support of her parents, whose family have started a fundraising campaign in order to pay for the lifesaving treatments Orla needs.

Angela, already giving blood to the cause, said: “We never thought about fundraising but money became vital with all the transport and basic needs during Orla’s treatments. Savannah is such a brave and selfless young lady.

“Orla has a long road ahead of her, but the family are optimistic and believe that she will recover as she is getting the best of care.”

The hope is that enough money will be raised to enable Orla to receive recuperative treatments and prevent the cancer from spreading or returning.

What is retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is a type of cancer which affects the retina of the eyes. The disease normally affects one or both eyes and is mainly found in children under the age of five.

In common with all other cancers, retinoblastoma causes several symptoms to be vigilant for including:
• An unusual white reflection in the pupil
• A squint
• A change in colour of the iris
• A red or inflamed eye
• Poor vision.

On these symptoms, the NHS add that they “may be caused by something other than retinoblastoma. But you should get them checked by your GP as soon as possible”.

Once a child is beyond the age of five they are traditionally unlikely to develop retinoblastoma.

What is the condition caused by?

All cancers are caused by the mutation of cells from those which support the body to those which attack it.

In the case of retinoblastoma, the cells affected are those around the light-sensitive retina – a lining which sits at the back of the eye. During the early stages of a baby’s life these cells grow very quickly and then stop growing.

In rare cases, some cells don’t stop growing and form the cancerous retinoblastoma. In around 40 percent of cases the condition is normally caused by a faulty gene affecting both eyes.

This gene is normally inherited from one of the parents, but can also occur during the early stages of child’s development inside the mother’s womb.

What about the remaining 60 percent?

At the moment, what causes the remaining cases is not yet known. In these cases there is no faulty gene and, as in the case of Orla, only one eye is affected.

How rare is retinoblastoma?

Very rare. Only a handful of children in the UK are diagnosed with the disease every year. The NHS says the average is around 36.

While rare, retinoblastoma shouldn’t be taken for granted and has the potential to affect any child. It is for this reason that parents are incredibly vigilant, something they will be at the child’s early stages of life in any case.

Once an uncertainty or sign raises concern, the most essential factor is time. The sooner the child is seen by a medical professional the sooner cancer will be diagnosed or ruled out.

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