Retinoblastoma, or cancer in eyes, is spreading among children and in India; it seems that there is no stopping its rise. In several cases, it has been seen that parents, due to some reason or the other like ignorance, or lack of awareness, have neglected the early warning signs and this has led to some devastating consequences for the kids such as eyes having to be left out of the body completely. In some cases, these have proved to be fatal as well! A report by the National Cancer Registry Programme says that West Bengal leads as far as retinoblastoma among girl children is concerned.
The age group that is the most vulnerable to this disease is under 4 years. In that category, 19 out of every 10 lakh girl children suffer from this disease in West Bengal. The worrying thing is that the male children are not far behind as well. In 2 to 5 percent cases, the cancer is spreading to their brain as well and killing them as well.
Some hope at last
The only good thing about this situation is that there is some treatment – and a good one at that – being done for retinoblastoma. It is available in Kolkata as well.
The best places to seek treatment in these cases include government hospitals such as the Regional Institute of Ophthalmology (RIO) and the Nil Ratan Sarkar (NRS) Hospital as well as a number of privately held clinics and treatment facilities dedicated specifically to eye care. Dr. Apala Bhattacharya, a pediatric ophthalmologist for RIO, says that each month they are treating around 5 to 7 kids for such cases by using forms of treatment such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, laser therapy, and cryo-ablation therapy. In some cases, surgery is also being conducted to treat retinoblastoma.
Sameer Banerjee, the head of the eye diseases division at the NRS, says that the common people are not really aware of this disease. They have very little idea. Parents are mostly not aware of the risk factor that children under 4 years are susceptible to retinoblastoma. He suggests that all you need to do is keep an eye on the eyes of your child and you would be able to determine if she or he is suffering from this disease or not. The main reason for that is the fact that in this disease the retina becomes white. In fact, as Dr. Bhattacharya says, if you used a torch you would be able to see a white area in your child’s retina. If such is the case then you should take your child to the doctor as soon as possible. Please do not think that your child has a cat eye.
More about this disease
Retinoblastoma happens to be one of the rarest of all forms of cancer out there. Each year it affects around 300 children around the world. In 80 percent of the cases, the patients are under 3 years old. However, it does not really happen to children who are older than 6 years. In fact, it has been seen in 99 percent of these cases that proper treatment can cure the patients.
How does it happen?
It is during the gestation period as well as the early life that retinoblasts, which are basically immature cells in the retinal area, multiply to create sufficient number of cells for the retina to be formed. In retinoblastoma, these retinoblasts are affected. As a result of the disease, these cells multiply at an excessive rate and they do not mature fully as well. This process is also referred to as differentiation. In cases where it happens in one eye it is known as unilateral and in cases where both the eyes are affected, it is referred to as bilateral.
The symptoms of this disease
It is quite easy for doctors to identify this disease – even a routine checkup is sufficient for them. Parents can do it as well. We have mentioned one already. Apart from that if you see that your child’s retina has turned black instead of red, if your child’s eyes are crossed – they are either looking towards the nose or the ear, if she or he has poor vision, if her or his eyes are painful and have turned red, or if the pupil is enlarged you should get your baby checked.