Early detection is the surest way to treat eye cancer in children

Professor Vera Adobea Essuman, an Eye Specialist at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, is advocating the prompt referral of abnormal eye conditions to help reduce the mortality rate of retinoblastoma in Ghana.

She said early detection of the disease could save the lives of children who die needlessly because their parents failed to send them to the hospital early enough for treatment.

Retinoblastoma is the commonest eye in children for the first five years, which arises from the retina, causing blindness and leading to death if not treated early.

Prof. Essuman said the survival rate of children with the condition was low because most parents sought medical attention at later stages when nothing could be done to save the eye.

She said this at a training programme for some community health nurses and midwives in on early detection of retinoblastoma and other eye conditions in children as part of a project aimed at preventing, protecting, and treating eye cancer in children.

Dubbed: the “National Eye Screening Project”, it seeks to equip the nurses and midwives at the community level to detect and refer eye conditions for early treatment with the overall goal of preventing cancer of the eye in children.

As part of the project, all beneficiary nurses and midwives would be provided with a device known as arclight to examine the eyes of children at their health centres and refer those with abnormal conditions to the appropriate facilities.

Funded by Rotary International through the Rotary Club of Detmold-Blomberg and Rotary Club of –La East, the Project is targeting about 500 nurses and midwives across the country.

It is a collaboration between the . Medical School, , and World Child Cancer.

Prof. Essuman said eye cancer in children, apart from causing blindness, could also kill the child if not detected early.

She said in developed countries hardly would three out of 100 children with retinoblastoma die, but in the case of developing countries, the survival rate was very low.

She said a recent national survey to look at the situation in Ghana revealed that 60 cases on average among newborns across the country were detected annually.

Most cases, she noted, were often presented late such that by the time they got to the hospital, the eyes were in a state that could not be saved.

“Sometimes it goes beyond the eyes to the extent that you cannot save the lives of the children.”
Prof. Essuman entreated parents to send children to the hospital as soon as they detected any abnormality in the eyes, especially those below five years, to ensure early treatment.

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