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Referral to a specialist

Find out when GPs refer people to see an eye cancer specialist.

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist within 2 weeks if you have symptoms that could be due to eye cancer This is called an urgent referral.

Seeing your GP

It can be hard for GPs to decide who may have cancer and who might have a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics.

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral.

UK referral guidelines

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) produce guidelines for GPs in the UK. The guidelines help them decide who needs an urgent referral.

There are no specific referral guidelines for eye cancer as it is so rare. But there are guidelines for a type of eye cancer called retinoblastoma. These guidelines mostly affect children aged under two. 

Guidelines for urgent referral for retinoblastoma

According to the NICE guidelines you should get an appointment within 2 weeks for an urgent referral.

The symptoms that need referral to a specialist for possible retinoblastoma are:

  • if the pupil of the eye looks white instead of black - this is sometimes noticed on photos when a flash is used

If you have other symptoms such as a new squint, changes in how well you can see, or problems with eyesight in a child with a family history of retinoblastoma, your GP may refer you for further tests. 

If a specialist suspects your child has retinoblastoma, they will refer you to one of the two specialist centres in the UK for retinoblastoma. They are the Royal London Hospital and Birmingham Children's Hospital.

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.