Every year, the second week of May is World Retinoblastoma Week. It is an opportunity to raise global awareness of retinoblastoma, a life-threatening eye cancer that is almost exclusively found in young children. Although retinoblastoma can be treated with chemotherapy, globally there is a low survival rate because patients are often diagnosed too late. This problem is especially prevalent in developing countries, where it can be difficult to access specialized eye health care.
In 2015, we opened the Operation Eyesight Universal Institute for Eye Cancer at the L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) in Hyderabad, India. The Institute provides comprehensive treatment for the entire range of ophthalmic tumors in both children and adults, and patients who cannot afford to pay are offered treatment free of cost. The Institute also offers critically required services to India and other low- and middle-income countries through research, capacity-building and education programs. It has trained several ophthalmologists and optometrists as part of its fellowship program, and has published several research papers in reputable, peer-reviewed journals. The Institute is playing a critical role in increasing awareness about eye cancer, leading to early diagnosis and treatment.
Anvitha is a 21-month-old toddler from Kerala, India. She has been receiving chemotherapy treatment for retinoblastoma at the Institute. She was due for her next chemotherapy treatment when the COVID-19 pandemic caused a nationwide lockdown. Her parents, Vineeth and Gopika, were worried that they would be unable to safely travel to Hyderabad to take Anvitha for her treatment. Vineeth took to social media to talk about their plight and requested support.
Fortunately, the local health ministry was able to help arrange their travel and provide necessary permissions. Anvitha safely reached Hyderabad in time to receive her treatment.
According to Dr. Swathi Kaliki, the Head of Eye Cancer Services at LVPEI, 90 percent of retinoblastoma cases can be cured if they are diagnosed and treated in time. In Anvitha’s case, Dr. Kaliki says that there are good chances that both her eyes and sight will be saved as well.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, thousands of families across India have hope that their children can beat eye cancer. Please consider donating today to support our work around the world to ensure that everyone has access to the eye health care they need.