In the Eye of the Storm

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Observing the World Retinoblastoma Week, doctors stress on the need for regular eye check-ups

The good news first retinoblastoma (RB), a type of eye cancer, is easy to detect and has 95 per cent cure rate. But the bad news is that in India, there are 1,500 new cases every year and it is the most common and life-threatening eye cancer in children below three years of age. Medicos and NGOs across the city observed World Retinoblastoma Week from May 12 to 18 to spread awareness about the disease.

Experts said that in most children, the tumour affects only one eye. However, one out of three children with retinoblastoma develop cancer in both eyes. It develops rapidly and can spread beyond the eye to other parts of the body. If not treated promptly, this advanced form can cause loss of vision, or even loss of life. Dr Santosh G Honavar, associate director, LV Prasad Eye Institute Head, Ophthalmic and Facial Plastic Surgery, Orbit and Ocular Oncology says children do not die from primary tumours in the eye but from cancer that has spread beyond the eye owing to late diagnosis. He emphasised that regular eye examinations and prompt inspection of any suspicions will ensure RB is detected.

The most common symptom of eye cancer is a white shining glow inside the child's eye. City doctors recommend a simple home test to check retinoblastoma. They say all one needs to do is to take a flash photograph of the child and if the picture shows a white pupil, it may be retinoblastoma. Other symptoms include a squint where an eye looks in or out, or redness and swelling of the eye. "The treatment depends upon how advanced the tumor is. If detected early, it is possible to treat the cancer and preserve the eye and vision with the help of laser treatment and chemotherapy," says Dr Honavar.

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