Teenager has a tennis ball-sized tumour growing from her eye

Sophia Savillaga, 16, with her hair covering her face to hide the large red tumour growing from her left eye.øøNEWS COPY - WITH VIDEO AND PICTURES This shy teenager keeps half her face covered with her hair - because she has a giant tumour growing from her eye. Sophia Savillaga, 16, was born with a blood-shot left retina that started to swell when she was just seven-months-old. The youngster complained that her eyes hurt and slowly she lost her sight with the large red tumour getting bigger. Sophia and mother Erlinda, a washer woman, visited a local doctor in Butuan, Philippines, four years ago - but she said he told them to ''go home because she can't be cured''. Other medics carried out a biopsy and referred Sophia to a specialist, but when her father died, the family could not afford to pay for treatment so she has never returned. Since then, the growth in Sophia's left eye has grown to be bigger than a tennis ball. The shy teenager was filmed yesterday (Mon) outside her wooden home in the remote village. øSEE VIDEO DESK FOR FOOTAGE AND NEWS WIRE

Teenager has a tennis ball-sized tumour growing from her eye and doctors say her condition is incurable

  • Sophia Savillaga was born with a blood-shot retina that later swelled up
  • She has never been diagnosed but may suffer from retinoblastoma
  • Sophia’s tumour has caused her to lose her sight in her left eye 
  • She is deeply self conscious and covers her eye to stop people staring 
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A teenager covers half her face with her hair due to a tennis ball-sized tumour growing from her left eye.

Sophia Savillaga, 16, from Butuan, Philippines, was born with a blood-shot left retina that started to swell when she was just seven months old.

The teenager, who is believed to suffer from retinoblastoma or medulloepithelioma, slowly lost her sight as the large, red tumour grew.

Sophia, who claims she is used to being in constant pain, added: ‘I would like a boyfriend and family like everyone else. I am worried that it will become worse.’

Unable to afford treatment, Sophia is speaking out to help fundraise towards therapy, despite one doctor telling her she ‘can’t be cured’. 

Scroll down for video 

Sophia Savillaga has a tennis ball-sized tumour growing from her left eye 

Sophia covers her tumour with her hair to help stop people staring at her 

The teenager (pictured with who is believed to be her mother Erlinda) wants a boyfriend 


Retinoblastoma is a rare type of eye cancer that usually affects children under the age of five.

As it is usually caught early in the UK, 98 per cent of children with the disease are successfully treated.

About 50 children develop the condition every year in Britain.

It affects up to 300 youngsters annually in the US.

Retinoblastoma is specifically a cancer of the retina, which is the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye.

It can affect one or both eyes.

A fault gene is responsible in about 40 per cent of cases. This can be inherited from the sufferer’s parents or may occur spontaneously.

The most common symptoms are the pupil looking like a cat’s eye and the child developing a squint. 

The cat eye look is most commonly seen in photos.

Small tumours can usually be treated with laser or freezing treatment.

Larger tumours may require chemotherapy or surgery.

Source: NHS Choices

‘I would like a boyfriend’    

Speaking of her condition, which does not affect any other part of her body, Sophia said: ‘My eye has always had this problem. I don’t remember ever being able to see from it.

‘I am used to it it. But I am worried that it will become worse. 

‘I would like a boyfriend and family like everyone else but it is not easy. I try to hide my eyes when I am around people.’   

The teenager claims she has ‘become used to the pain’ and lives a normal life, going to school with friends in her local village.

Sophia, who has lost her sight in her left eye, says she has become used to the pain

She is worried the tumour may become worse but is unable to afford treatment 

Sophia says her disorder makes life difficult, forcing her to hide the tumour from others

Erlinda says her daughter’s condition first started when she was just seven months old

She added Sophia’s eyes were bulging and teary, and caused her daughter a lot of pain  

Sophia has received mixed messages from doctors as to whether her condition is curable 

Despite her disorder, Sophia attends the local school and has a good group of friends

‘She always complained her eyes hurt’

Sophia’s tearful mother Erlinda, a washer woman, added: ‘I noticed her condition when she was still a baby. 

‘She was only seven months old. Her eyes were bulging and teary. She always complained that her eyes hurt.

‘I brought her to the doctor when she was older and she had a biopsy procedure. 

‘The doctor just told us to go home because they can’t cure my daughter. She was only 12 years old back then.

‘We never went back to hospital because my husband died. We were confused because the doctors told us different findings.’

Donate towards Sophia’s treatment here.  


A medulloepithelioma is a tumour that grows from the part of the eye that produces the organ’s watery fluid.

It is usually diagnosed in childhood.

Medulloepithelioma’s prevalence is unclear. 

Due to the cancer being slow growing, medulloepithelioma is often only diagnosed when the tumour grows large enough to protrude into the pupil, which controls light entering the eye, or distort the iris, which give eyes their colour.

Many sufferers also experience vision loss.

In terms of treatment, removal of the eyeball may be required.

Due to the condition’s prevalence being unknown, its prognosis is relatively unclear.

Yet, doctors believe most people survive medulloepithelioma providing the cancer does not spread.

Source: Archives of Pathology 

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