Eye specialist pleads for prompt referral of abnormal eye conditions
Professor Vera Adobea Essuman, an eye specialist at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, advocates prompt referral of abnormal eye conditions to help reduce the death rate from retinoblastoma in Ghana.
She said early detection of the disease could save the lives of children who are dying unnecessarily because their parents did not send them to hospital early enough for treatment.
Retinoblastoma is the most common eye cancer in children during the first five years, which originates in the retina, causing blindness and leading to death if not treated early.
Professor Essuman said the survival rate for children with the disease was low because most parents sought medical attention at later stages when nothing could be done to save the eye.
She said this during a training program 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 to prevent, protect and treating eye cancer in children.
Dubbed: The National Eye Screening Project, it aims to equip nurses and midwives at the community level to detect and direct 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 receive a device known as an arclight to examine the eyes of children in their health centers and refer those with abnormal conditions to the appropriate facilities.
Funded by Rotary International through the Rotary Club of Detmold-Blomberg and the Rotary Club of Accra – La East, the project targets approximately 500 nurses and midwives across the country.
This is a collaboration between the Ghana Health Service. University of Ghana School of Medicine, World Health Organization and World Child Cancer.
Prof Essuman said eye cancer in children, apart from causing blindness, could also kill the child if not caught early.
She said that in developed countries, just three out of 100 children with retinoblastoma die, but in the case of developing countries, the survival rate is very low.
She said a recent national survey of the situation in Ghana revealed that an average of 60 cases among newborns across the country were detected every year.
Most cases, she noted, were often presented late, so by the time they arrived at the hospital, the eyes were in a state that could not be saved.
“Sometimes it goes beyond the eyes to the extent that you can’t save children’s lives.”
Professor Essuman pleaded with parents to send children to hospital as soon as they detect any abnormality in their eyes, especially those under five, to ensure early treatment.