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Camera flash helps mom spot cancer in baby's eye

An Arizona mom may have helped save her son's life by spotting something unusual in his baby photos.

Andrea Temarantz had snapped lots photos over the course of 4-month-old Ryder's young life, and recently noticed a strange "glow" in his left eye, according to a family post on the website FundRazr. She remembered seeing something on Facebook about how the flash of a camera could reveal a hidden health problem in a baby's eye.

She mentioned it to Ryder's doctor at his 4-month check-up at the beginning of January, and 24 hours later he was diagnosed with a form of eye cancer called retinoblastoma.

The family was faced with the difficult decision to of how to treat their son's cancer: remove his eye or start him on chemotherapy. Neither option was good, as Ryder was born with Down's Syndrome, increasing his chance of developing leukemia -- thus making chemo a risky option -- and Temarantz and her husband soon learned the cancer may ultimately attack both eyes, making it all the more important to try to preserve some sight.

That's when Ryder's doctors at Phoenix Children's Hospital told his parents about oncologists in New York City who utilize a unique chemotherapy delivery method for their son's exact type of tumor.

The family travelled to New York City in late January, where Ryder received his first treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center.

Dr. David Abramson, the chief of MSK's ophthalmic oncology service, explained to the New York Daily News that they administer "less than a teaspoon of chemotherapy" through a 6-foot-long catheter "as thin as angel hair pasta," entering through the baby's groin. The hospital has used this technique on 1,600 children and procedure cures 99 percent of patients, he said.

"Almost all of these children were scheduled to have those eyes removed somewhere," Abramson told the newspaper. "We don't have one child who has died from this cancer."

Ryder's family hopes sharing their story will spread awareness about retinoblastoma and how parents can help detect it with the help of a camera flash. According to children's health organization Know the Glow, "the glow" is an indicator of as many as 16 childhood eye diseases.

"So proud of Ryder's mom & dad!" Ryder's aunt Jane Michaels Dufoe said in an update on the FundRazr page this weekend. "Andrea & Joey are only 24 days into this scary situation & have already reached MILLIONS to tell the world about early detection & the amazing treatments being used to fight this frightening childhood cancer. More awareness. Earlier detection. Saved lives."

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