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

Professor Vera Adobea Essuman, Eye Specialist at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital is advocating for prompt referral of abnormal eye conditions to help reduce the rate of children who die of eye cancer (retinoblastoma) in the country.

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

Retinoblastoma is the commonest eye cancer in children for the first five years which arises from the retina and causes blindness and without treatment could lead to death.

According to Prof. Essuman, the survival rate of children with that condition was low because most parents sought medical attention at later stages when nothing could be done to save the eye and sometimes the lives of such children.

She was speaking at a training programme for some community health nurses and midwives in Kumasi on early detection of retinoblastoma and other eye conditions in children as part of a project aimed at prevention, protection and treatment of eye cancer in children.

Dubbed, “National Eye Screening Project”, it sought 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 eye cancer 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 facilities and refer those with abnormal conditions.

The project, which was targeting about 500 nurses and midwives across the country was being funded by Rotary International through the Rotary Club of Detmold-Blomberg and Rotary Club of Accra- La East.

It was a collaboration between the Ghana Health Service (GHS), University of Ghana Medical School, World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Child Cancer (WCC).

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 disclosed that a recent national survey to look at the situation in Ghana revealed that 60 cases averagely 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,” she said.

She urged parents to send children to the hospital as soon as they detect any abnormality in the eyes of their children, especially those under five years, adding that all eye conditions were treatable as long as they are detected early.

Source: Ghana News Agency

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