White Spot in Eye – Be Aware! Early detection of childhood eye cancer is curable

Bengaluru, May 22, 2018: With reported incidences of Retinoblastoma (life threatening eye cancer affecting new born and very young children up to 5 years of age) increasing over the years, doctors unanimously recommend that screening of eye for any abnormality in infants/toddlers should be made mandatory. Further, doctors suggest that systemizing eye screenings for infants/ toddlers will go a long way in detecting lethal eye cancers and preventing childhood blindness.

Retinoblastoma(RB) is alife-threatening eye cancer affecting new born and very youngchildren up to 5years of age. It can occur either in one eye or in both.Although it is alife-threatening cancer, majority of the children couldsurvive and retainvision if RB is detected in its early stage. Data fromdifferent sources revealthat every year globally over 8,000 new cases arereported of which easily 1,500cases are from India.  However, thereality is many cases of RB goesunreported/ undetected and also awareness isabysmally low especially in Indiaand more so in rural areas.

RB atits early stage is just noteasily identifiable but for some telltale symptomsincluding a white shiny spot,squinted eye, swelling of the eye and continuouswatering. As RB progresses awhite mass from within the eye becomes prominent.Even this is often missed. AsRb further progresses, the eye becomes painful,red and swollen. If not properlydiagnosed and treated at this stage, thecancer spreads outside the eye, overtime there is every chance of it spreadingto brain and other parts of the bodyand it becomes a threat to life.

 Accordingto Dr.Gagan Dudeja, Consultant, OrbitOculoplasty & Ocular Oncology, NarayanaNethralaya, “AwarenessaboutRetinoblastoma is low and early detection is crucial to give the bestchance ofsaving the child’s vision, eyes and life. Early detection and propertreatmentwill ensure 95% of the children diagnosed with RB are saved fromdeath, 90%have their eye intact and 85% have their vision protected.”

Further, he pointed out that,unfortunately in Indianscenario a child is taken to an eye specialist only whenthere is any notableproblem, which makes treatment of RB at a later stage muchharder. Against this background,he suggested that systemized screening of eyefor any abnormality ininfants/toddlers should be made mandatory and sensitizingdoctors &healthcare authorities at different levels assumes greatimportance and opinesthat RB screening with an ophthalmoscope by a traineddoctor will be beneficial indetection.

Dr.Fairooz P Manjandavida, whospecializes in Retinoblastoma and Eye Cancer, Directorat HORUS Specialty EyeCare and Consultant at Prabha Eye Clinic & ResearchCenter, pointed outthatRB is completely curable if detected early with currently available advancedtreatments.Awareness regarding the disease can save many lives, eye andvision. If a whitespot is seen in child’s eye on flash photography it is amatter on concern andneed immediate attention. Thorough eye examination withan ophthalmologist ismandated and further referral with eye cancer specialistif required.

Dr. Fairooz says“Being a geneticdisorder, RB can run in families. Early screening of babiesborn to parents withRB and genetic tests will enable families to know if theirchild has a risk of RB.Pediatricians being the first point of contact forparents, plays a major rolein early detection. White reflex, squinting andredness of eye in a newborn orinfant can be an indication of underlying eyecancer. We should all join handsto ‘fight the white’.”

According to Dr. K.BhujangShetty, Chairman, Narayana Nethralaya, facilities for genetic testingandcounseling should be made available for all children with Retinoblastoma.​Healso is of opinion that the research in India can take the lead in creatingnoveltherapies that can improve upon currently available treatment.

According to Mr. ThanmayaBekkalale, Founder Trustee, Iksha Foundation (a Bengaluru-based NGO supportingchildren with Eye cancer), “We only know the reported cases of RB, there are numerouscases that go unreported. The need of the hour is to spread individual andsocietal awareness about RB and promote early detection as it is documented thatevery day 4 children are born with eye cancer in India and one of them facingdeath as a result of diagnosis at advanced stage or not diagnosed at all” 

Given the low priority given toRB as compared to other disorders,Iksha Foundation is keen to build visibilityabout RB among various stakeholders and ensure that the message of earlydetection is communicated amongst the masses. This becomes vital as it is a factthat parents and even healthcare personal are not even aware about RB symptoms.

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