Local eye cancer survivor and family to host under-16s eye test clinic on Friday 12 May for Retinoblastoma Awareness Week (8-14 May 2017)
The family of a young eye cancer survivor from Longbenton are encouraging parents to recognise the importance of children’s eye health this Retinoblastoma (Rb) Awareness Week (8-14 May 2017) as it is revealed less than one in three parents have ever had their child’s eyes checked.
In December 2016, Corey Scott’s mum, Rachael Campbell, noticed a strange glow in her two-year-old son’s eye. Less than a week later he had been diagnosed with the rare eye cancer, retinoblastoma, and had undergone life-saving surgery to remove his left eye.
“Rachael asked me if I’d noticed anything strange in his eye when she initially saw the white glow,” Corey’s dad, John Scott explained. “In fact, I had meant to investigate it a month or two earlier after noticing something similar but because it was just when the light caught it in a certain way, I forgot about it.”
Later that night, Corey’s parents researched what it could mean and once they saw the glow could be a sign of retinoblastoma, they took him immediately to the doctors the next morning. “The doctor wasn’t sure exactly what it was but they could see there was definitely something in the bottom of his left eye and said they were going to refer us to the local hospital, which could take 4-6 weeks for an appointment. I knew if it was retinoblastoma, we needed to act fast, so we started to worry.”
After struggling to reach a department that could help at Newcastle RVI, John and Rachael discovered only Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Great Ormond Street treated the condition in the UK. “I rang Birmingham and told them I suspected my son had retinoblastoma. They rang the RVI for us and we were invited in for Corey to have an ultrasound.”
The ultrasound detected the retina in Corey’s left eye had completely detached and there was a large tumour. Corey and his family then drove to Birmingham Children’s Hospital but because the tumour was so large, his sight could not be saved. Within a few days, Corey underwent surgery to remove his left eye – a couple of days before Christmas.
The operation was a success and Corey now has regular check-ups on his right eye. “Corey’s doing fine now and has been fitted with an artificial left eye,” John added. “We weren’t even sure he knew what was happening as he was, and still is, so young. Afterwards, we found out due to his retina detaching, he had been blind in that eye for at least three months before he was diagnosed, but he showed no signs of struggling and he hadn’t had an eye test yet. His good eye has been checked now, though, and his vision is fine.”
Corey’s parents believe, thanks to their persistence, their little boy’s life has been saved. “After his operation, we got the referral letter through from his first visit to the GP and he would have had to wait until March to be seen. If we hadn’t chased it up and had waited for that appointment, the doctors said the cancer could have spread to his brain.”
As part of Retinoblastoma Awareness Week, Corey and his parents are being invited to Vision Express’ Metrocentre shopping centre store to help host an under-16’s drop-in clinic, on Friday 12 May. The event aims to raise awareness of the condition and highlight the importance of regular eye tests for children, while offering free comprehensive 30-minute sight checks. Although under 16’s are already entitled to free eye tests on the NHS, Vision Express hopes the drop-in will encourage parents and their offspring to pop by after school between 3pm and 7pm.
Vision Express Metrocentre store manager Janice Bainbridge, said: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming Corey and his parents to the store, to share their personal experience of eye cancer. It’s a great morale boost for the team to do something meaningful for such a great cause, and is a great way for Vision Express to let people know about the importance of regular eye tests for children.”
John thinks the fact so many parents have never heard of Rb makes raising awareness even more important. He added: “I’d heard of retinoblastoma before but it was one of those things I didn’t take much notice of. When we found out Corey could have it and then when we looked into it, that’s when we started to panic.
“After Corey was diagnosed, I tried to share his story on Facebook but it’s hard to get people to take notice unless they’ve heard of it or it’s happened to someone they care about. That’s why events like this are so important - I want to tell people not to turn a blind eye to it.”
Gateshead was selected as one of five locations on Vision Express’ UK-wide tour for Retinoblastoma Awareness Week, after the town was identified as having twice as many disadvantaged children as the national average, with statistics revealing children born into low-income households are more likely to experience health problems from birth and underprivileged families are less likely to access healthcare.
In addition, disadvantaged primary school pupils (two in five in the North East) are twice as likely to begin secondary school struggling to read and write. In a bid to encourage children in Gateshead that reading is fun and that eye tests are not daunting, children’s author, Ged Adamson, has been invited to the Metrocentre store on 12 May to hold a reading session with his book Douglas, You Need Glasses. The book follows the journey of Douglas, a dog with bad eyesight, and is aimed at children between three and seven years.
Joining forces with Vision Express for the week is the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT). Petra Maxwell, information and research manager at CHECT, will be helping educate visitors to the Metrocentre store on retinoblastoma, and the signs and symptoms to be aware of.
Petra said: “Vision Express continues to be a fantastic supporter of the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust, and we are delighted to attend their events during Retinoblastoma Awareness Week. Having Corey here today highlights the importance of parents recognising the signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma, and getting their child’s eyes checked by a healthcare professional if they have any concerns. We are so grateful to Vision Express for helping CHECT to raise awareness of Rb with even more parents.”
Vision Express was the first optician in the UK to roll out a protocol to ensure a quick and effective referral if Rb is suspected. The national optical retailer has enjoyed an award-winning partnership with CHECT since 2010, using initiatives to raise awareness of Rb and drive donations for the charity, so they can help more families affected.
Around 50 to 60 cases of Rb are diagnosed each year and while 98% of those diagnosed will survive, they may face having an eye removed or have lasting vision impairment issues.
Children’s sight can be tested at any age, and it’s recommended that they see an optometrist before they start school and begin learning to read. With eyes being fully developed by the time youngsters are eight years old, any sight defects that have gone undetected by that time are largely irreversible. All children under the age of 16, or under 19 and in full-time education, are entitled to a free eye test and a contribution towards glasses or lenses on the NHS.
Vision Express offers an eye test to best practice guidelines of the College of Optometrists (COO), with each Vision Express optometrist being a qualified eye health professional. To book an eye test at the Metrocentre store call 0191 460 0644, visit 81/83 Russell Way, Metrocentre, Gateshead NE11 9XX or make an online enquiry at: www.visionexpress.com/book-eye-test/
1,030 parents took part in the online survey, conducted by MMR Research Worldwide in May 2017. All parents had at least one child aged between 0-6 years.
 January 2016 government school census, published June 2016
 JRF, The costs of child poverty for individuals and society, 2008
 The Literacy Picture Across the North East, 2015, study commissioned by Northern Rock Foundation and delivered by Consilium Research & Consultancy.
About Vision Express
Vision Express is one of the largest optical retailers in the UK and part of GrandVision,the global leader in optical retail operating in more than 40 countries, spanning over 6,500 stores and online.
With more than 390 stores nationwide, Vision Express first opened its doors in Newcastle in 1988. Built on a passion for the profession, it has gone from strength to strength, driven by a commitment to unparalleled customer service and providing the best individual optical care, the right product and great value. Customers can select from a vast range of genuine designer brands and the latest technology lenses, through to complete glasses from £39.
With around 4,500 employees, Vision Express makes a significant difference to the communities it operates within, and the organisations it chooses to support. As part of its commitment to Vision. Taken Seriously, and as a responsible and caring retailer, Vision Express is proud to partner with a range of healthcare charities, which have touched the lives of customers and teams. These companies provide vital support to people affected by vision-related conditions. They are part of the Vision Express Charity Project and include:
- Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT)
- International Glaucoma Association
- Macular Society
- Stroke Association
- Temple Street University Hospital