Sankara Nethralaya Fights Retinoblastoma – A Rare & Curable Childhood Cancer

Retinoblastoma is the most common primary intraocular malignancy occurring in children.  World Retinoblastoma Week from 14th May – 20th May 2023 helps to raise awareness and garner support for patients affected by retinoblastoma.  Fifteen children are born every year with this disease in India.  This is curable if disease is identified early with a cure rate of 90 to 95%.

The Retinoblastoma team led by Dr. Suganeswari Ganesan, Senior Consultant, Vitreoretina and Oncology Services organised an awareness program revolving around the Retinoblastoma Warriors – survivors of the curable childhood cancer on May 15th, 2023 from 2:00 pm onwards. 

Art and recreational activities were organized by Golden Butterflies for the child patients visiting Sankara Nethralaya for treatment and follow- ups.  The children were delighted to participate and have fun in the midst of their ongoing treatments.

Mrs. Aparna Guhan Shyam, Founder & CEO, Tiara Haemophilia and Cancer Foundation, and Dr. K. Balaji Singh MS, FRCS, Dean, Sri Ramachandra Medical College & Research Institute were present to support the Retinoblastoma survivors along with the medical and non-medical teams.  Dr. Ravi Kumar, Dr Pritam Chatterjee, Interventional Radiologist from Apollo hospitals, Dr. J. Julius Scott, Paediatric oncologist, Dr. Radha Annamalai, Ophthalmologist, Dr. Satish Srinivasan, Dr. Christopher John, Radiation Therapist, Dr. Dharani,  Hematologist, Dr. Latha,  Paediatric oncologist, Dr. Gokulakrishnan, Radiologist, and many other from Sri Ramachandra Medical College & Research Institute have collaborated with Sankara Nethralaya to provide care and save the lives of these children. Sankara Nethralaya has identified and treated 250 children with retinoblastoma in 2022. 

Several Retinoblastoma warriors showed off their talents both onstage and in the virtual mode to much applause.

In India, around 1,500-2,000 children are diagnosed with retinoblastoma each year.  Retinoblastoma can be cured, especially if the disease is confined to the eyes.  If left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body and becomes much harder to treat.  There are two types of Retinoblastoma 1) Sporadic (not passed down in families); and 2) Hereditary (can be passed down in families).

Treatment is mainly in the form of chemotherapy followed by laser.  At this stage, the eye and some vision can be saved.  Advanced stages of retinoblastoma can spread commonly to the brain and then to the other structures leading to loss of life.  “Treat early save life, save eye and save vision”.

Children belonging to families having Retinoblastoma patients should undergo genetic evaluation and should be followed up at frequent intervals for any development of tumours.  This type of childhood cancer is commonly seen in children less than 3 years of age.  Ideally, all the children should undergo yearly eye evaluation starting from birth.

The event drew to a close with the children and their parents being called on stage and presented with participation gifts to cheer them and recognize their courage in fighting this painful disease.

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