is a type of
cancer of the eye which develops in children before the age of 5 years. As the
name suggests it is a cancer that starts in
which is the inner lining at the back of the eye. Retina is made up of specialized
nerve cells that are sensitive to light. If left untreated, the cancer cells
spread and fill most of the eyeball. Sometimes if the disease has progressed
beyond repair, the eye has to be taken out.
About one-third of the
children suffering from retinoblastoma have an abnormal gene that causes this
cancer. Some children with this type of hereditary retinoblastoma will develop
another tumor in the brain or other cancers at some point in their life.
characteristic signs and symptoms of retinoblastoma include:
A whitish color behind the pupil called leukocoria or 'cat's eye reflex'. When
the lights are dimmed and torch light is focused directly into the child's eye,
you can see a red reflection (red reflex). This red reflex is absent if the
child has retinoblastoma. 60 percent of children with retinoblastoma show this
(squint), or wandering eyes, or if the eyes are not aligned or
if the eyes are not equal in size, may indicate the possibility of
retinoblastoma, though these signs are not exclusive to retinoblastoma.
Reddish pupil that persists, often with pain, is a symptom seen in 10 percent
of children affected by retinoblastoma.
Less common signs and symptoms include -
in pupil size
forward of the eyes
with vision in one eye or both eyes
Retinoblastoma is a
curable disease if detected early. Unfortunately, awareness of this cancer is
low in India. And this may be the reason why out of 5000 new cases of the
cancer each year, more than 1500 cases are reported from India itself. Even in
India, the incidence of the disease is markedly higher in Chennai than in
Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, or Pune, according to pediatric oncologist Matthew
Awareness Week may be the right platform for the eye specialists and other
health experts to educate people and medical professionals about this cancer.
This might (and already has) lead to early diagnosis and therefore better
In view of this, the
Center for Sight Eye Hospital (CFS), Hyderabad, has organized awareness
programs during the week. 'To save the child's life and prevent the cancer from
spreading to other parts of the body, the eye may have to be removed in
advanced cases. It is possible then, to fit a life-like artificial eye on the
child to ensure normal appearance,' said Dr.
Santosh G. Honavar, Director - Medical Services and Head - Ocular Oncology
& Oculoplasty, CFS Hyderabad.
L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), Hyderabad, is organizing a
series of activities as part of the 7th World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week.
The experts will be interacting with people at a public forum. They have also
organized an educational program for health care workers to identify the cancer
Cankids, an NGO in
Delhi, is launching a nationwide awareness program as part of the World
Retinoblastoma Awareness Week. 'The awareness campaign, to be launched under
the Sajeev Cankids Retinoblastoma project, is focused on the central message of
early diagnosis and identifying the white eye reflex,' said Cankids chairperson
Sankara Nethralaya treats 80 to 100 new cases every year. 'Hitherto, the only treatment available was
removal of the eye, but now with newer technologies, the eye salvage rate has
increased tremendously. The department has all such facilities required for eye
salvage including Transpupillary Thermo Therapy, cryo therapy, laser
photocoagulation, brachytherapy, local radiotherapy and systemic and local
chemotherapy,' states the hospital.
Other eye institutes
all over the country and in the world too are organizing awareness programs on
Majority of children
treated for retinoblastoma survive and go on to lead normal lives and most of
them will even have a normal vision of 20/20.
awareness week is the right time to become aware or create awareness about this
Let's make a conscious
effort to save the child's eye and preserve their vision!
2. Retinoblastoma - By Matthew W. Wilson