Welcome to September the childhood cancer awareness month, I take children and anything that concerns them really seriously and that is why the month of September this 2018 is so important to me.
Children are our tomorrow and what are we if we do not preserve our future generations. As an optometrist [after all, the eyes are the window of the soul], it is in my place to talk about a malignant eye health issue that is causing growing concern in low-income countries like the ones in Africa. Retinoblastoma, also known as RB, what is this disease with this kind of sophisticated name, who does it affect, can it be prevented and what are the ways it can be treated?

5 Things you should know about retinoblastoma

1. It is an uncommon eye cancer [1 in 16,000-18000 live births] that mostly affects children before the age of 5 years.
2. It is caused by a random alteration (mutation) of a gene in the retinal cells [retina, a layer inside the eye where images are formed. It is very important for sight]. It can occur in one or both eyes.
3. It has very devastating consequences especially when it is discovered late, it can lead to death when it affects surrounding tissues or organs like the brain, loss of both eyes and decrease in quality of life for the child in general.
4. It is less common in high-income countries because of good health care systems and as such disease is always detected early and specialist treatment given.
5. It is treatable.

What can we do?

1. Make sure you take all infants and toddlers for an early eye check with a qualified eye doctor.
2. Maintain regular eye checks till they turn 5 years [retinoblastoma occurring after age 5 is quite rare].
3. Whenever you see something whitish (leukocoria) inside a child’s eye treat it as a medical emergency.

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