Phu is 1 and a half years old. Her parents noticed that she had a white spot in her eye when she was 5 months old so they took her to their local hospital in the Ayeryarwady region in the south of Myanmar. She had a CT scan and other investigations but they could not determine what the white spot was.
Months later when Phu’s eye began to swell she was referred to Yangon Children’s Hospital where she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma – an eye cancer that affects young children. The family are relatively new to the hospital and are currently on their second 5 day stay, having been able to go home for 2 weeks after their first stay.
Phu’s father is a farmer who earns about £3 per day. He has come with them to the hospital but he sleeps outside in the car park as only one parent can stay on the ward.
The family have an appointment coming up at the eye hospital and will then need to wait for an operation to remove Phu’s eye. In the UK, eye removal as a result of retinoblastoma is relatively rare and reserved for the most advanced cases of the disease. However, in Myanmar many children who have retinoblastoma will need to have their eye removed as it is the most effective way available of controlling the cancer. Infrastructure, clinical research, and expertise to be able to fight the cancer in the eye using more advanced techniques is lacking.
Phu’s mother says that she is very clever. She used to be afraid of doctors but after coming to Yangon Children’s Hospital she is no longer afraid.
Retinoblastoma is curable if diagnosed early. World Child Cancer are working to train healthcare professionals and increase awareness of childhood cancer in Myanmar to ensure that children with cancer reach hospital at an earlier stage, improving their chances of survival. .