A 25-year-old man from Cardiff is thanking his local opticians for saving his life after a routine eye test picked up fluid on his brain, which led to the discovery of a life-threatening brain tumour.

Severe headaches

When Curtis Bowen, a Salvation Army support worker, started to suffer from severe headaches he visited his GP, who suggested he make an appointment with an optician. During an eye examination with Rachel Hurford at Specsavers in Llanishen, Rachel noticed swelling on Mr Bowen’s right eye and referred him to the University Hospital of Wales as a precaution.

At the hospital, a CT scan later discovered that the swelling was caused by hydrocephalus, a condition in which an excessive build-up of fluid puts pressure on the brain. If left untreated, the condition can be fatal.

A subsequent MRI scan then spotted a brain tumour near his neck, which doctors believe caused the fluid build-up. Mr Bowen needed an operation to remove the tumour, as well as inserting a tube - known as a shunt - to drain the fluid.

‘I’ve been a Specsavers customer for a few years so I knew I would be in good hands when I visited the Llanishen store,’ says Mr Bowen. ‘Even so, I never thought that my headaches could have been caused by a brain tumour. Everything seemed to snowball in the months after my GP visit but, if it wasn’t for Rachel, my condition and the tumour may never have been spotted.’

Enormous gratitude

Curtis spent nearly a week in hospital and several more off work as he recovered. Thankfully the pain has - with the exception of one or two occasions - disappeared, but he needs hospital check-ups every six months.

Mr Bowen adds: ‘I can’t thank everyone who helped me enough. My GP, Specsavers and the medical staff at the hospital all acted swiftly and did everything they could for me. I would encourage anyone suffering from headaches like I did to go to their local opticians as soon as they can, so they can get the excellent and potentially life-saving treatment I was so lucky to receive.’

Due to its accreditation by the Welsh Government’s Wales Eye Care Services programme, the Llanishen Specsavers store delivers front-line primary eye care services on behalf of the NHS in the form of targeted clinical tests, known as Eye Health Examination Wales (EHEW).

Clare Corcoran, optometrist director, says: ‘While headaches are not usually a cause for serious concern, they can be an early indicator of wider health problems. Curtis made the right decision to visit his GP and come to our store for a check-up.

‘As an experienced optometrist, Rachel immediately knew something wasn’t right and performed a series of tests, taking the initial strain off the hospital and enabling staff to have a comprehensive understanding of Curtis’ issues before he stepped foot in the building. This also meant he was able to receive vital treatment even quicker which, in the case of brain tumours, can be the difference between life and death.’

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