Early diagnosis is a child’s only hope of cure in Africa. When cancer is contained in the eye, surgical removal of that eye cures the child. However, intensive therapy required for retinoblastoma that has spread outside the eye places huge burdens on the family and health care system, with very poor chance of survival.
There is little awareness of childhood cancer among the public or primary health workers in developing countries. Early diagnosis is hampered by widespread illiteracy, limited access to health information, and principal use of traditional medicines due to poverty.
As a white pupil is often the only visible sign of retinoblastoma in its early stages, most families do not seek medical care until the cancer is a severe threat to the child’s life. Stigma associated with removing an eye frequently causes parents to resist life-saving surgery, and children who are curable at diagnosis later die in terrible pain.
Untreated retinoblastoma grotesquely mutilates the child’s beautiful young face, causing intolerable physical and mental suffering that is entirely preventable.