Aherne backs eye cancer campaign

Andover Advertiser: Caroline Aherne has previously been treated for bladder cancer and retinoblastoma Caroline Aherne has previously been treated for bladder cancer and retinoblastoma

Caroline Aherne has backed a new campaign to raise awareness of a rare form of eye cancer she suffered as a child.

The Mrs Merton and Royle Family creator has provided the voiceover for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) online video campaign aimed at highlighting key symptoms of retinoblastoma.

The campaign has been launched after the writer, actor and comedian revealed last week that she is recovering after being treated for lung cancer. She has vowed to carry on with her TV work.

The 50-year-old has previously been treated for bladder cancer and retinoblastoma (Rb) which typically affects babies and young children.

The video tells the story of Rosie, a young girl who has Rb, and explains how to spot signs of the disease. These can include a squint, a change in the colour of one eye and an abnormal reflection of light in the pupils seen in low light or flash photography. Two different endings have been created for the film, one for parents and the other for health professionals.

Aherne and her older brother Patrick were both diagnosed with the genetic form of Rb as babies and the disease is thought to be linked to her subsequent bladder and lung cancer.

Aherne said last week: "Both myself and my brother Patrick were diagnosed with retinoblastoma as babies and were lucky enough to receive some pioneering treatment at the time which saved our sight to varying degrees - Patrick had to have his right eye removed.

"It is absolutely crucial that parents are aware of this horrible cancer and know what the early signs are so that treatment can be given as early as possible.

"I sincerely hope that this campaign, and my involvement, will educate and awaken people to the danger of retinoblastoma and highlight the ways in which it can be spotted in its early stages."

Ashwin Reddy, consultant paediatric ophthalmologist at the Royal London Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital and medical adviser to CHECT, said those with the heritable type of Rb, like Aherne, have an increased risk of second primary cancers.

"Patients surviving this form of Rb have an increased risk of developing other forms of cancer, including lung and bladder cancer, later in life. It is imperative that adults who have had Rb should be seen regularly in an adult oncology clinic," he said.

Joy Felgate, chief executive of CHECT, said: "We are sure Caroline's involvement will have a huge impact on the success of this campaign to raise awareness of the signs of retinoblastoma.

"We were very sorry to hear of Caroline's lung cancer and wish her a full recovery."

She paid tribute to the generosity of Aherne and the production team at Changing Horizons, who donated their time and expertise to produce the film.

She added: " We are hoping this message will prompt concerned parents to seek help sooner, offering their child the best opportunity of saving their sight, their eyes and possibly even their life.

"We know many parents unfortunately experience unnecessary delays in accessing treatment and hope this will help encourage health professionals to take parents' concerns seriously, even if the symptoms are very subtle."

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