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Patient Spotlight: How an Eye Exam Saved a Life

Barb Fraser was standing in the aisle of the London Drugs she works at in Victoria, BC, when she got the call.

“Barbara, you have a brain tumour.”

Fraser was diagnosed with a benign meningioma at the age of 47 following a routine eye exam. FYidoctors’ optometrist Dr. Brent Morrison used optomap ultra-widefield retinal imaging technology to obtain a full picture of her retina, and noticed the abnormality. After being referred to a neurologist, it was determined after a CT scan that a slow growing tumour the size of a baseball was located on the surface of the front-right side of her brain.

She waited for two months before it was her time in the operating room at Victoria General Hospital. Doctors spent six hours in the operating room removing the mass.

“They successfully removed all but 1% of the tumour and the outcome was excellent,” said Fraser. “For about a year after, I felt as though my brain was enlarging to fill the space where the tumour had been. Whether this was the case I don’t know.”

Fraser has experienced minor memory loss and peripheral neuropathy in her feet since the operation. Every 18 months she undergoes an MRI scan to ensure no new growths are forming. Dr. Morrison is also staying on top of a thinning optic nerve lining assumed to be a result of the surgery.

The importance of regular eye exams

Fraser isn’t shy to point out who came to her rescue. She and her family have been patients of FYidoctors’ Dr. Morrison’s for close to 25 years.

Dr. Morrison recalls helping Fraser as one of the most rewarding experiences in his career.

“This type of brain tumour may only show up a handful of times in an optometrist’s career,” said Dr. Morrison. “However, brain tumours are the leading cause of solid cancer death in children under the age of 20 and the third leading cause of solid cancer death in young adults ages 20-39.”

There are approximately 120 different types of brain tumours. Any unwanted growth that results in pressure along the visual pathway from the eyes to the occipital region of the brain can change a person’s vision. Most commonly, the signs are papilledema (swelling of the optic nerve) or visual field changes, both of which an optometrist can detect. Symptoms the individual may have can be headaches, dizziness, nausea, seizures, personality changes, hearing loss, paralysis, or weakness on one side of the body. The best way to protect yourself is to have regular eye exams and keep on top of your physical health examinations with your family doctor.

“Many diseases, such as brain tumours can begin with no symptoms but, when caught early, can increase your chances of a good outcome,” said Dr. Morrison.

Paying it forward

Barb at the Brain Tumour Walk - image

Fraser will be participating in Victoria’s annual Brain Tumour Walk for the 10th time this May 28th. The day brings together patients, survivors, friends, family, community businesses, and service clubs to remember those who have died and to support those currently fighting brain tumours.

“At the moment, approximately 55,000 Canadians are suffering with brain tumours,” said Fraser. “However, the Brain Tumour Foundation is not one of the ‘well-known’ charities and is therefore underfunded.”

The foundation works collaboratively to serve the needs of those Canadians affected by all types of brain tumours.

“I also try to spread the word about the importance of yearly eye exams done by an optometrist,” urged Fraser “Without this, I would not be where I am today.”

To ensure you are maintaining healthy vision, book an eye exam at your local FYidoctors today.