More Indian kids falling prey to eye cancer: AIIMS doctors

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A rare eye cancer called ‘Retinoblastoma’ is afflicting children more than ever worrying the doctors and parents alike, according to eye specialists from the Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Revealing the incidence of the new disease, Bhavana Chawla, Associate Professor of RP Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences at AIIMS, said the disease is rising at an alarming rate of 20,000 new cases reported every year.

Usually the disease was found 1 in every 20,000 new births but she warned that the retinoblastoma may even spread to brain, if not detected early and cured. It spreads all over the body later, making it fatal.

Retinoblastoma is caused both by genetic and non-genetic reasons but the lack of awareness among parents is the main cause for its spread and incidence on the mortality of children in India. “The parents bring their children only after observing any thing major in the eyes of their children,” said Bhavana Chawla, at a seminar on the eye disease in AIIMS.

Any patient with a white spot in the eye, squint or any type of shine in the eye balls should be taken to the eye doctor immeditely for test, failing which it becomes dangerous and the child may lose his eye sight and it may even affect the brain, she said.

The retinoblastoma disease, once detected, can be cured with surgery, laser surgery, or by chemotherapy. But even after surgery, the eye sight will not be saved in these cases, warn doctors.

Retinoblastoma (Rb), develops fast from the immature cells of a retina, the light-detecting tissue of the eye and it is the most common malignant cancer of the eye in children. In some cases the eye is removed and half of the cases have a hereditary genetic defect associated with retinoblastoma, said doctors.

In the developed world, retinoblastoma has better record of cure at 95% cases and 9 out of 10 survive the disease and enter adulthoood. In the UK, around 40 to 50 new cases are reported each year.

Detecting Retinoblastoma with Smartphone:

Now even with the help of your smartphone, you can detect the eye cancer in children. The flash from a smartphone camera can easily spot retinoblastoma (Rb), says the UK-based Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT).

If there is tumour inside the eye, then it reflects as a white pupil in flash photos and parents or friends can easily spot it now, said researchers. Recently, a four-month-old girl Arwen in the UK was detected of the eye cancer with the help of a smartphone flash, said CHECT.

When Arwen’s mother Eilise Somers realised that her daughter’s eyes appeared white in a photo, she rushed to a specialist where the eye was removed but the girl celebrated her first birthday recently.


One comment

  1. Dr Puneet Chandna: Retinoblastoma, as it is called , is the most common intraocular malignancy of childhood, exists in sporadic and heritable forms. Prompt referral to ophthalmology and other pediatric specialists is necessary to optimize visual outcome and survival!

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