Brittany Howard is Blind in One Eye

Brittany Howard: the frontwoman from Alabama Shakes and her entire family’s battle with eye cancer

Types of Intraocular Eye Cancer

There are several types of intraocular eye cancers. Some types begin in children while others start in adulthood or even late adulthood. If you are from NC, you may have heard of the increased incidence of ocular melanomas associated with a few cities in the United States, including Huntersville, NC. Investigations as to the cause of the intraocular melanomas have left many questions unanswered. However, the focus of this celebrity eye conditions installment is about Retinoblastoma, ocular cancer affecting children.

What Type does Ms. Howard have?

Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard is blind in one eye due to Retinoblastoma. Sadly, her sister also was affected and lost her life due to it, devastating the entire family. Ms. Howard’s cancer affected one eye and it sounds like she was able to have it treated with lasers.

What is Retinoblastoma?

This is an intraocular (inside the eyeball as opposed to on the front of the eyeball or next to the eyeball) tumor that is often not visible without a dilated eye exam. It is the most common intraocular malignancy and can affect just one or both eyes. It is most often diagnosed by three years of age but sometimes it does not appear until the child is older1. Retinoblastoma may be inherited or it can result from a denovo (new DNA change within that child) mutation in which they would not have a family history of the eye cancer. If the mutation is genomic meaning it occurs in every cell of that individual’s body, both eyes are more likely to be affected, there is an increased risk of getting other cancers and there is an increased mortality rate. If the mutation is somatic meaning, it just occurred in 1 retinal cell, the disease is more likely to affect 1 eye2.

Your pediatrician will screen your child for this in-office but often small tumors will be missed on an undilated child which is why a dilated comprehensive eye exam is recommended. The worst outcome of Retinoblastoma is death with greatest predictors of death being how much of the eye is involved if the optic nerve is involved and if cancer has gotten through the sclera (white part)2. Other complications that can arise from Retinoblastoma include glaucoma, intraocular inflammation, and retinal detachments. Treatment includes radiation, chemotherapy, and/or surgery where the eye is removed or cryotherapy2.

Can I tell if my child has Retinoblastoma?

Not always, and often the signs won’t be apparent until the tumor is very large. Some associated signs are one white pupil or white reflex or an eye turn. However, keep in mind that there are many other less ominous causes of an eye turn.

I want to draw everyone’s attention to the InfantSEE program. This is a public service program put on by the AOA but not all practices participate. Salisbury Eyecare and Eyewear (SEE) is a participant and sees children under the age of 1 at no charge for a full dilated exam. Here at SEE, we agree with the AOA that full comprehensive exams should begin by 1 year old or sooner if you suspect problems or have a family history of eye disease. If you have questions about your infant’s eyes do not hesitate to contact us.

What does this mean for Ms. Howard?

She needs to be diligent with her annual exams to monitor her ocular health. She will also likely make sure any kids she has will have early eye exams and perhaps even genetic testing.

 

If you enjoyed this article about Retinoblastoma, be sure to check our our article on Clusters of Rare Ocular Cancer in North Carolina and Alabama.

Works Cited

  1. Shields, Jerry and Shields, Carol. Atlas of Intraocular Tumors. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 1999.
  2. Isidro et al, Retinoblastoma. Emedicine.medscape.com last updated Jul 12, 2016

 

Disclaimer: With all celebrities discussed in this series I am simply using the power of google and reporting the rumors of their eye conditions.  I am not certain if these celebrities have these eye conditions and I have never seen their medical records or examined them myself.  I am simply reporting on a personal interest of mine and describing what these conditions are.  My comments do not reflect the personal history of the celebrity or inside knowledge of them or their rumored condition. 

A Little Bit About…

A Little Bit About…

Ashley Iketani-Castillo, OD, MS

Dr. Iketani is a Florida native who has a passion for managing ocular disease. She views each patient as a whole person and believes the eyes are a window to a patient’s systemic health. She also has a passion for fitting rigid lenses on patients with corneal disease to help them obtain their best vision.

Dr. Iketani graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry where she completed internships at the Hefner Veteren’s Affairs hospital in Charlotte, NC and The Metrolina Association for the Blind which focused on Low Vision rehabilitation. Prior to pursuing optometry, she obtained a Masters of Science which focused on developmental genetics and worked as a technician in a lab that researched breast cancer.

Dr. Iketani currently resides in Cincinnati where her husband is starting his pediatrician fellowship,with their two cats and baby boy.

Disclaimer

Information contained within this Web site is intended solely for educational purposes and is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice relative to your specific medical condition or question. Always seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider for any questions you may have regarding your medical condition. Only your physician can provide specific diagnoses and therapies. By using this Web site, you agree to this Medical Disclaimer.

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205 E Council Street, Suite B
Salisbury, North Carolina 28144

Phone: (704) 310-5002
Fax: (704) 310-5003
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205 E Council Street, Suite B
Salisbury, North Carolina 28144

Phone: (704) 310-5002
Fax: (704) 310-5003
kristin@salisburyeyecareandeyewear.com

 

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Hours:
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Tuesday: 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Wednesday: 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Thursday: 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
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