Tuesday 12 December 2017

Sponsored Feature: Omagh Teenager urges people to avail of eye tests

An Omagh teenager who went for a routine eye test and was subsequently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, has advised people to visit their opticians.

Twenty year old Vanessa Keys from Omagh is urging people to have regular eye tests, as ‘you do not know how serious underlying conditions can be’. Her routine eye test in 2010, which included digital retinal screening, led to a follow-on diagnosis of a life threatening tumour. Two years on, following a spell of intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy she is now recovering and expecting her first child.

Vanessa was prompted to book her eye test after feeling that her left eye was turning inwards, following two years of recurring headaches. The routine eye test by Specsavers optometrist Peadar Kearney included the use of a digital retinal camera – a specialised microscope that takes a picture of the back of the eye – the only part of the human body where the microcirculation of the blood can be directly observed.

The optometrist identified some irregularities and referred Vanessa straight to the ophthalmology department at Altnagelvin Hospital, Co. Derry for further investigation. Within a week she underwent a CT scan, which revealed a large tumour pressing on her facial nerves.

Vanessa was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer in the face and throat. She was admitted to Royal Victoria Hospital for further scans and assessment, to devise a treatment plan. She then underwent seven weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment to shrink the tumour and slow down its progression.

The following year saw more health problems for the teenager when a lump was identified in her breast, which was subsequently removed. But 2012 is looking a lot brighter. She is studying for a diploma in health and social work with the ambition of working with children suffering from cancer. And, of course, she is looking forward to parenthood. ‘I now encourage my family and friends to get their eyes tested every year and that way they can keep on top of both their eyesight and health’, she said. ‘I wouldn’t have known how serious my symptoms were unless I had gone for an eye test. I can’t thank the team at Specsavers enough for all they have done for me.’

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