Retinoblastoma, a rare form eye cancer, which is known to cause blindness, is gradually affecting more and more children in India.
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMs), New Delhi reported that the number of children diagnosed with retinoblastoma has increased by 20 percent in the past five years. Every month the institute sees 25-30 new cases, while more than 1,200 children have been treated in the past five years.
Retinoblastoma generally occurs in children who are below five. One in 20,000 live births worldwide is diagnosed with the eye cancer and early detection of the disease is the key for treatment and restoring vision.
"This is an area which is not yet covered. Many patients coming to us are not even aware about the disease. The entire community needs to be sensitized. Out of the total cases we receive every month, 20 percent of the infants succumb to the disease," said, Yog Raj Sharma, Chief, Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, AIIMS.
The life-threatening cancer can be hereditary and develops in the retina, that is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that detects light and colour. If diagnosis is delayed, the tumour starts spreading from the eye to the brain, leading to mortality.
"Genetically affected retinoblastoma tends to affect both eyes", said Bhawana Chawla, additional professor, Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, AIIMS. "Awareness is the key. Parents should lookout for a shiny white centre in the eye, which could be the first indicator of the presence of this cancer."
Sadly, many kids are brought for treatment when the situation has already deteriorated and the tumour is in the last level. So AIIMS is in talks with the Union Health Ministry to ensure that an aggressive awareness programme is rolled out to bring down the numbers of those who aren't able to access healthcare in time.