The Iksha Foundation, a Bengaluru-based NGO supporting children with eye cancer, has stepped up programmes to spread awareness about retinoblastoma and ensure that the disease is detected in potential victims in its early stages. One week in May, starting from the second Sunday of the month — May 13 to May 19 this year — is observed as World Retinoblastoma Week, to raise awareness about retinoblastoma (RB), which is a life-threatening eye cancer affecting newborn and very young children up to 5 years of age.
It can occur either in one eye or both. According to Iksha Foundation, reported incidences of RB are increasing. Doctors suggest systemising eye screenings for toddlers will go a long way in preventing childhood blindness.
According to Dr Sonal S Chaugule, consultant, ophthalmic plastic surgery, orbit and ocular oncology, H. V. Desai Eye Hospital, Pune, “Awareness about retinoblastoma is low and early detection is crucial to give the best chance of saving the child’s life, eye and vision. Early detection and proper treatment will ensure 95 per cent of the children diagnosed with RB are saved from death, 90 per cent have their eye intact and 85 per cent have their vision protected.”
“Unfortunately, in India, a child is taken to an eye specialist only when there is any notable problem, which makes treatment of RB at a later stage much harder,” she said. Against this background, she suggests that systemised screening of eye for any abnormality in infants/toddlers should be made mandatory and sensitising doctors and healthcare authorities at different levels assumes great importance.
According to Thanmaya Bekkalale, founder and trustee, Iksha Foundation, “We only know the reported cases of RB, there are numerous cases that go unreported. The need of the hour is to spread individual and societal awareness about RB and promote early detection as it is documented that every day, four children are born with eye cancer in India, and one of them is facing death as a result of diagnosis at advanced stage or not diagnosed at all.”