Should I see an eye cancer specialist? | Cancer Research UK
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Should I see an eye cancer specialist?

Men and women discussing eye cancer

This page tells you about seeing an eye cancer specialist. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Should I see an eye cancer specialist?

It can be very difficult for GPs to decide who may have a suspected cancer and who may have something much more minor. With many symptoms, it is perfectly right that your GP should ask you to wait to see if they get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics.

The NICE guidelines

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs to see a specialist urgently. There are no specific referral guidelines for eye cancers apart from retinoblastoma. The guidelines for retinoblastoma mostly affect children aged under two.

Guidelines for urgent referral

You should get an appointment within 2 weeks for an urgent referral. The symptoms that need urgent referral to a specialist for possible retinoblastoma are

  • If the pupil of the eye looks white instead of black – sometimes this is noticed on photos when a flash is used. 

If you have had 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 you are still worried

If you are concerned that your GP is not taking any symptoms as seriously as you think they should, you could print this page and take it along to an appointment. Ask your GP to talk it through with you.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the about eye cancer section.

 

 

Who should see a specialist

It can be very difficult for GPs to decide who may have a suspected cancer and who may have something much more minor that will go away on its own. With many symptoms, it is perfectly right that your GP should ask you to wait to see if they get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics. If GPs referred everyone who came to see them to a specialist immediately, the system would get jammed and people needing urgent appointments wouldn't be able to get them.

Seeing a specialist

It is important to see your doctor if you have any symptoms of eye cancer so they can refer you to a specialist (opthalomologist) if necessary. But do remember that eye cancers are rare and that other conditions can also cause these symptoms.

If you see a specialist, they will want to examine you and may do several tests. We have information about the type of tests you may need.

 

The NICE guidelines

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs to see a specialist urgently. There are no specific referral guidelines for eye cancer as it is so rare. But there are guidelines for 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 urgent referral to a specialist for possible retinoblastoma are

  • If the pupil of the eye looks white instead of black – sometimes this is 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.

 

If you are still worried

If you are concerned that your GP is not taking your symptoms as seriously as you think they should, you could print this page or the symptoms of eye cancer page, and take it along to an appointment. Ask your GP to talk it through with you and then you may be able to decide together whether you or your child need to see a specialist and if so, how soon.

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Updated: 9 July 2015