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Posted: May 12, 2015

Mom discovers toddler's eye cancer after snapping iPhone photo

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By Ryan Biek and Becca Dunn

ROCKFORD, Ill. —

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If it weren't for a photo taken on an iPhone, 2-year-old Avery Fitzgerald's cancer might not have been caught in time. 

His mother, Julie Fitzgerald, told WREX that for a couple of months she'd noticed she could see something in the back of his eye under certain light. Her fears grew upon reading online that pupils shining white in photos could be a sign of cancer. 

"My world completely shattered. It literally changed in the blink of an eye," she told ABC.

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She took Avery to the hospital, where doctors said tumors had taken over 75 percent of his eye due to a dangerous condition called retinoblastoma.   

According to the Mayo Clinic, retinoblastoma is a form of cancer beginning in the retina, the layer of cells that are sensitive to light. The condition most often affects children. 

Avery's eye had to be removed, but if it had remained, doctors say the cancer would have spread to his brain. 

Fitzgerald told ABC, "It turned out to be our worst nightmare, but it saved our son's life." 

Snapping photos as she did has helped identify retinoblastoma in other children, as well, including a baby girl in Arizona last month. 

These parents' use of flash photography is similar to the "red reflex test" doctors use to identify lesions in the retina that, in the worst cases, indicate retinoblastoma. The Mayo Clinic advises bringing your child to the doctor if you're concerned about any changes to their eyes. 

According to WREX, Avery was likely born blind in his left eye. He still might have to undergo chemotherapy and will eventually get a prosthetic eye.

This video contains an image from Getty Images.

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