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Eye Cancer Can be Treated with Advanced Technology

Unlike cancers related to lungs, throat and other parts of the human body, cancer of the eye is less talked about. In fact, most of the doctors refer eye cancer patients, who largely comprise children, to a general cancer hospital and not to an eye care centre that specializes in cancer care of the eye.

The rough statistics and disease burden of eye cancer in India are overwhelming. Every year, close to 8,000 fresh cases are diagnosed of eye cancer in the world out of which the maximum are in India and China. India caters to around 20% of the total reported patients worldwide. The worst part is that 50% of such eye cancer cases constitute to retinoblastoma in children.

Over the past five years, there has been a 20% increase in cases of retinoblastoma among children below the age of five years. Of the total cases, around one-third of the children coming to Ocular Oncologist are in advanced stages of the disease when it is almost impossible for the doctors to cure the cancer. This is because parents are unable to detect the symptoms early. When they come to the hospital, the tumor would have spread beyond the eye, in most cases the brain. It becomes almost impossible to save these lives. In India, there is no awareness created at all on such crucial issues. Cases can be missed at various stages. A pediatrician is the first person who could diagnose it and communicate to the parents.

Cancer could occur at various locations of the eye such as the eyelids, the surface of the eye, inside the eye and in the orbit of the eye. The main mantra of fighting them is timely diagnosis, meeting the right doctors and getting the right kind of treatment. There has been a lot of advancement in treatment. Cancer of the eye can be treated in various methods such us Chemotherapy, Systematic Chemotherapy, Intra Arterial Chemotherapy and Intra Vitreal Chemotherapy.

The Intra Arterial chemotherapy – This approach involves injecting chemotherapy directly into the ophthalmic artery, the main artery that supplies blood to the eye. In this technique, we insert a thin catheter into the large thigh artery and slowly take it to eye. The chemo is then given directly to the eye.

Intra Vitreal Chemotherapy – This is injected into the veins in any part of the body which will have a partial reaction on the eye. Through advanced treatments like Intra Arterial and Vitreal Chemotherapies, we have been able to save more eyes.

When we get such complicated cases at Narayana Nethralaya, We first concentrate on saving lives, then the eyes and then concentrate on saving vision. Primary eye cancers can occur at any age, but the risk for most types increases as people get older. The rate of eye melanomas has been fairly stable over the past few decades. Cancers that spread to the eye from another part of the body (secondary eye cancers) are also common.

The writer is Dr. Fairooz, Consultant in Ocular Oncology, Narayana Nethralaya, Bengaluru.

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