Eye cancer may cause loss of eyesight, death

Kathmandu, June 12

Lack of awareness and delay in treatment of retinoblastoma results in the loss of eyesight or even life of children suffering from the disease, a rare kind of eye cancer.

“Delay in treatment of retinoblastoma increases chances of death. Cancer from affected eye/s can spread to other organs such as brain, spine and liver. Early diagnosis and treatment is necessary to save life and eyesight,” said Ben Limbu, an oculoplastic surgeon at Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology.

Most of the children cannot notice or feel the effects of retinoblastoma at an early stage of the disease. They are brought to the hospital when the disease has already spread to other organs, according to Limbu.

Retinoblastoma may occur in one or both eyes. The disease mostly occurs in children below the age of five. Of the children suffering from retinoblastoma, 60 per cent have this disease in one eye and 40 per cent have in both the eyes. It begins in the retina, the layer of nerve cells lining the back of the eye, according to Limbu.

“The white glow in a child’s eye is the most common early sign of retinoblastoma. It is similar to flash photos. Crossed eye, a condition in which both eyes do not look at the same direction at the same time, and redness in the eyes are other symptoms. Take the child immediately to an ophthalmologist if you see such signs,” advised Limbu.

“From among the children visiting Tilganga, many are from the Tarai region. Children from Muslim community are more prone to the disease. The disease is genetic and as consanguineous marriages take place in Muslim population, there is a high risk for children to inherit the cancer genes from their parents,” Limbu said.

There is no exact data of how many children are suffering from retinoblastoma, across the country. Data collection of retinoblastoma patients across the country started in January, this year and will be completed by the end of the year, according to Limbu.

“Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy procedures are available in the country for the treatment of the disease. The country lacks interventional radiology in treating the disease. The treatment process helps to locate the exact position of the tumour,” said Limbu.