Eye Cancer That You May Not Even Know You Have

Retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye, still remains virtually unknown, possibly due to the lack of awareness among the common man. In India alone, 2,200 cases of retinoblastoma are reported each year, making it a serious concern.

Also commonly known as cancer of the eye, retinoblastoma makes up for 3 percent of all cancers affecting children below the age of 4 years. Just like other different cancers, retinoblastoma is typically asymptomatic during the earlier stages, making diagnosis all the more difficult. Yet another issue blocking its early diagnosis is the lack of awareness among the common public about the existence of such a cancer, and the symptoms that may accompany it.

"While on one hand, the levels of awareness have increased in the past decade, there still remains a large chunk of people who are unaware of retinoblastoma. In some cases, because of the lack of awareness, cases are reported in the advanced stages of the disease," said Dr Swati Kaliki, consultant, Orbit and Ocular Oncology Services, at the L V Prasad Eye Institute.

"Timely treatment can save 95 per cent of the children suffering from the disease. In 75 per cent of the cases, the child's vision can be saved. Hence, awareness, early detection and treatment are extremely crucial," she added.

This cancer is easy to be identified and diagnosed, simply by a physical examination which may detect an unusual glint in the eye, or a white reflex, which proves correct in almost 60 percent of cases arriving for the diagnosis.

The L V Prasad Eye Institute reports around 240-270 cases of retinoblastoma each year, and over 1,800 children have received treatment for this eye condition at the institute.

Furthermore, since retinoblastoma affects children in general, it is easily treatable, as children tend to be more responsive to treatments and drugs. The treatment should however, be done on time, Dr Vijay Anand Reddy, the Director of Apollo Cancer Hospital suggests.

 "It is essential that a paediatrician is aware of the symptoms. Only then will he/she diagnosis the condition, leading to timely treatment," he said.

This week in particular, (May 12-May18), is observed as the World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week, attempting to create global awareness of this disease, aiding its eradication.

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