Retinoblastoma awareness lacking among people


Kathmandu, May 19

Lack of awareness among people of retinoblastoma has been a major cause for increasing deaths among children suffering from retinoblastoma in the country.

Seventy per cent of the children suffering from retinoblastoma face death as they do not get treatment on time,” said Dr Ben Limbu, oculoplastic surgeon at Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, adding, “One child among 20,000 has been diagnosed with this kind of tumour. Retinoblastoma accounts for five per cent 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 eye with the abnormality in the gene being congenital that mostly affects infants and children. “Ninety per cent of the patients suffering from this disease are children among which 60 per cent have this disease in one eye and 40 per cent 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.

So in order to control such deaths, it is necessary to aware people about the disease and inform them about treatment procedure. It is also equally important to aware people about the complications that the disease can bring in the patient.

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.

Other reason behind increasing deaths caused by retinoblastoma is 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 untimely death.

Doctors, therefore, advise parents to be aware about 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.