|Dr. Ben Limbu|
Seventy percent of the children suffering from retinoblastoma face death as they do not get treatment on time,” said Dr. Ben Limbu, an oculoplastic surgeon at Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, adding, “One child among 20,000 has been diagnosed with this kind of tumor. Retinoblastoma accounts for five percent of all kinds of cancer diagnosed among children.”
With the aim of raising awareness of retinoblastoma, World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week is being marked from May 13 to 19.
Retinoblastoma is a rare kind of cancer in the eye with the abnormality in the gene being congenital that mostly affects infants and children. “Ninety percent of the patients suffering from this disease are children among which 60 percent have this disease in one eye and 40 percent have in both the eyes. Due to lack of awareness about the disease, parents bring their children to hospital when it is too late — when cancer has already spread to other organs such as brain and liver,” said Dr. Limbu.
Retinoblastoma may occur in one or both eyes. It begins in the retina, the layer of nerve cells lining the back of the eye. “It happens when nerve cells in retina change, grow in size and number. These cells usually spread in and around the eye. There are high chances of the disease spreading to other body parts such as brain and spine. Thus timely treatment is necessary to save lives,” said Dr Limbu.
Another reason behind increasing deaths caused by retinoblastoma is the unavailability of treatment in all hospitals across the country. Patients have to visit Kathmandu for treatment and many patients cannot afford it. Some even abandon treatment in the middle due to poor financial condition and thus have to face the untimely death.
Doctors, therefore, advise parents to be aware of their children’s health. The disease doesn’t have many symptoms in the initial stage. There is an occurrence of white colour in the centre of the eye (pupil), eyes appear to be looking in different directions, and redness and swelling are some of the symptoms.
However, these symptoms often go unnoticed. The child also doesn’t complain. Parents should be aware about these symptoms and take the children to the nearest health centre for timely treatment.