Kathmandu, May 13

World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week began from today. It will be marked throughout the country till May 18.

Retinoblastoma is the most common and life-threatening eye cancer seen in children and infants. Each year, more than 5,000 new cases of retinoblastoma are diagnosed across the world.

One among 20,000 children are diagnosed with this kind of tumour in the world. According to eye surgeon Dr Sanduk Ruit, who is also one of the founders of Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, due to lack awareness about retinoblastoma in the country, many children are losing their eyesight and in some cases even lives.

He further said people in rural areas ignore minor eye problems seen in their children as they do not have any knowledge about the disease. “ By the time they bring children to an ophthalmologist, it’s too late. So in order to control such deaths, it is necessary to make people aware about the disease and inform them about treatment procedure. It is also equally important to make people aware about complications that the disease can bring in the patient,” he added.

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 the 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 parts of the body such as brain and spine.

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, according to doctors, these symptoms often go unnoticed. The child also doesn’t complain.

Speaking at an event organised here today by Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology,  Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Population Pushpa Chaudhary said making pregnant women and new mothers aware about the disease was a must to control the increasing number of children suffering from retinoblastoma.