Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Get those cameras out! {Canadian Retinoblastoma Society}

As I'm sure some of my readers know, I am a part time photographer on the side of my full time job, and raising two kids and being a wife.  I know, I know apparently I think I have a ton of extra time on my hands! haha!  So when I got this email from Daphna, regarding spreading the word about Retinoblastoma I just couldn't turn it down.

So, what is Retinoblastoma?
A rare cancer of the eye triggered by genetic mutations in one or more cells of the retina.  It typically affects children between birth and five years of age, and about 23 Canadian children each year.

If detected early, Retinoblastoma is 98% curable but early detection is critical!

So this is sort of where I as a photographer comes into play...

Although I am a natural light photographer and don't use flash, I know that as a mother, we parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles LOVE to photograph our children.  We charish all of those cute little smiles, the rollie pollie arms, chins, legs, the first roll over, the first crawl, the first get my point - we take a LOT of photographs. I encourage this for a variety of reasons!

We as parents can find signs of Retinoblastoma by looking at photographs taken using flash.

The signs of Retinoblastoma are:
  • Whiteness reflected in the pupil, particularly noticable when the pupil is dilated (noticable in flash photography). 
A few other symptoms that could be associated with Retinoblastoma or other eye conditions include:
    • inward or outward turning of the eye
    • redness of the eye
    • swelling of the eye
Why does Retinoblastoma make the eye white?
Typically with a healthy retina and the layers supporting it will reflect light back from the camera flash as  "red eye" when a flash photograph is taken but a child with retinoblastoma, the tumor prevents the light from reaching the retina, giving the pupil a white appearance.  This whiteness may not be visible in ALL pictures, size and location as well as angle the photo is taken on can all play a role in what is visible.

 What can you do at home?
  • Use the flash on your camera
  • Turn off the red eye feature
  • Take pictures from a variety of angles (as a mother, is this even that hard! LOL)
  • Lightly light room
  • If you notice anything "weird", bring the photograph to your doctor ASAP
NOTE: Cell phone's use a different type of flash (LED) and will not aid in early detection.

The Canadian Retinoblastoma Society raises awareness and promotes early detection of Retinoblastoma cancer using flash photography.  They are the only charity in Canada dedicate exclusively to education, advocacy, and support for Canadian retinoblastoma families.  They are shedding light on this condition and encouraging parents to monitor their children closely so those affected can be detected early.

The CRBS has set up this campaign and website to promote further information on early retinoblastoma detection.  You can also read a personal story of a mother Maria - here and how photographs helped in the early detection of Leo's retinoblastoma in his left eye.

So as a mother and as a photographer, I encourage you to take as many photographs of your rollie pollie children as you can!

I encourage you to turn on the flash (NOT every picture needs flash by the way (that's the photographer in me)) but do it.  Early detection is key and it's simple enough for anyone to do it!


  1. Wow, that was very interesting. I will have to share this with my daughter who is very into photography.

  2. I had forgot to check out this blogpost earlier when we first talked about what it was about. I was just surfing around and thought about it again. Wow, I had no idea about this until we talked about it and reading this post.

    Great information here and hopefully others learn from it as well.