A Bognor Regis resident has revealed how she was saved from a potentially fatal brain tumour following a routine eye test at her local opticians.

Crippling headaches for several weeks

Alicia Littlepage, 18, had recently completed a media studies degree at Chichester College and was looking forward to starting a full-time job as a meetings associate at a pharmaceutical company. However, everything changed when she began to experience crippling headaches during a trip to London in July.

Alicia said: ‘I had a terrible migraine and my vision began to go funny. On top of that, I started to feel a massive amount of pressure behind my eyes.

‘This went on for four straight weeks. In that time, I went to see my GP twice and even ended up in A&E, where they said it was just a migraine and didn’t treat it as an emergency.’

Optical Coherence Tomography​ scan

On the suggestion of her GP, Alicia booked herself in for an eye test at Specsavers in Bognor Regis to learn more about what could be causing her symptoms. She was seen by optometrist Basir Uddin, who used the state-of-the-art Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scan to get a detailed look at the back of Alicia’s eyes.

Following the examination, Basir was concerned that Alicia was suffering from papilledema – swelling of the optic nerve – and advised her to seek immediate medical treatment.

Alicia said: ‘I was planning to go to my GP again after the eye test, thinking that it wouldn’t turn up anything. But when Basir asked if I had been sent to see him in an emergency, I started to realise that this could be quite serious.

‘The last thing you expect after you’ve been to the opticians is to be going straight to hospital but, soon after the test, my mum was taking me to Chichester hospital. When I went to A&E before, it took me three hours to be seen but this time I was seen by a doctor within five minutes of getting there.’

An MRI scan revealed a cyst-like matter located on Alicia’s brain, which was causing the build-up of pressure behind her eyes. She was sent straight to University Hospital Southampton for an operation – but, upon arrival, she was greeted with grave news.

‘After the doctors had taken a closer look at my scan, they told me that I had a tumour right in the middle of my head, which needed to be treated/operated on immediately.

‘The surgeon said they would need to perform a biopsy and create a “window” to drain the fluid before they could tell whether the tumour was benign or malignant.’

Benign tumour

Fortunately for Alicia, further tests revealed the tumour was benign and she was discharged from hospital after two days. She has spent the last month recovering at home and now has to have yearly scans at the hospital to monitor the tumour.

Alicia said: ‘The surgeon said there is a 3% chance that the tumour could become malignant and would require radiotherapy to treat. But he added that many people go through the rest of their lives with a benign tumour.’

Despite her ordeal, Alicia said she is now starting to feel better and is aiming to start work at her new company in November, which has held the position for her while she recovers. She added she is incredibly grateful to Basir for his support and help in identifying her condition, and has sent him a box of chocolates as way of thanks.

Alicia said: ‘Basir was so nice when he saw me and was really professional throughout. If he wasn’t so calm and collected, I may have been in a state.

‘My surgeon told me that had I not been seen by my optician, I could have become really ill very quickly. I’m now hoping that by sharing my story, more people will get their eyes checked and it will help to save lives.’

On the mend

Jonathan West, store director at Specsavers Bognor Regis, said: ‘We’re relieved to hear that Alicia is on the mend and we’re also incredibly proud of the work carried out by Basir in this instance.

‘Eye tests are not just for helping you find the right pair of glasses – they can also be used to spot serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and tumours. We would encourage everyone to get their eyes checked on a regular basis to ensure any potential life-changing conditions are caught at an early stage.’

Alicia is sharing her story as a new report from Specsavers and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) found one in five people will live with sight loss, despite at least half of all cases being avoidable.

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