Caroline stresses the need for others to pay attention to their eye health. While a brain tumour diagnosis is extremely rare following an eye examination, overall eye health will be high on the agenda during the week of 21-27th September.
Caroline, from Newtownards, Co. Down, 49, started experiencing headaches just before Christmas 2019 and put them down to needing a stronger prescription for her glasses. A regular eye test would reveal a shocking diagnosis.
Caroline said: “My optician detected that I was getting double vision where I was seeing two images rather than one.
“Sharon informed me that this was not a normal finding and that I needed to go Accident & Emergency straight away, she was very persuasive in a professional manner!”
After Caroline had a blood test and a CT scan at Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, it was decided to refer Caroline to the ophthalmology department to investigate further about her double vision.
“In February 2020 just before COVID, I went to the ophthalmology appointment where they told me that in the CT scan something had showed up.
“I remember them saying there was a lesion, I remember asking what’s a lesion?”
Caroline was then told it was a Meningioma, a specific type of brain tumour. A meningioma is a benign growth that did require further assessment and that they would have to refer her to Neurosurgery.
With COVID now in full force, it wasn’t until March that she had an MRI scan and was informed by her neurosurgeon.
“It showed a positive meningioma and after discussions with my Multi-Disciplinary Team and my neurosurgeon, it was decided that radiotherapy was the best treatment for me, not surgery.
“I was put forward for Radiotherapy. Since then I have had 28 sessions in the Cancer Centre in City Hospital Belfast. I will get my next MRI scan in the next few weeks and they will be able to tell me if there has been any change in the size of the lesion before I started the radiotherapy sessions.
We know only too well the signs and symptoms of a brain tumour diagnosis and the importance opticians can play in this process.
Caroline said: “My first port of call was the opticians as I had read before in magazine article that opticians can detect things such as brain tumours. I am very lucky that Sharon was able to detect some of the signs and refer me straight away.
“It was a surprise that day when I was referred to the accident & emergency, I just thought I needed a stronger pair of glasses.
“I would strongly recommend anyone who is experiencing anything different, where they know something is not right to attend your local optician. I’m glad I did that day.”
Lorcan Butler, our new Optical Engagement Manager, said: “National Eye Health Week is an excellent opportunity for the optical community to engage with the general public and inform them an eye examination is more than just determining whether somebody needs glasses or not.
“It’s also about checking eye health and general health aspects too and we know that approximately 30% of people who have a brain tumour experienced visual changes in the lead up to their diagnosis.
“We hope to support, educate and be there for people like Caroline and to provide information and resources for people to see what they themselves or their partner, children, or parents will likely be going through.”