Optical Assistant’s positive outlook on life after chance sight-saving diagnosis

Ayrshire optical assistant Jennifer McCaig sees life’s positives after colleague spotted an early cancer at the back of her eye during a training session on the latest technology.


Staff at the Ayr branch of Black & Lizars were testing out the top-of-the-range Optomap retinal imaging scanner when the condition was spotted. The 63-year-old from Drongan was referred to Gartnavel hospital where she underwent a delicate operation to treat the cancer.

Jennifer (above), who has worked at Black & Lizars for 12 years, has retained excellent vision as a result of the condition being caught early. She said: “Our practice manager was going to do a trial of the new equipment on one of the younger girls when, for some reason, she looked over and decided to test me instead and that decision saved my sight.

“The Optomap scanner can see inside the eye in such amazing detail, and found a freckle behind my eye. It had been identified in an earlier test and discounted, but the Optomap scan showed that the edge was raised and it wasn't lying flat.

 “I was referred on to the hospital, where by chance, the consultant who treated me was a patient of our practice.

 “He found cancerous tissue at the side of the freckle which, if not treated, could have led to me losing my eye. To treat the condition, I had a complex operation to place a radium plaque behind my eye.

 “I was in the hospital for five days and they removed the plaque shortly after. I’ve had the condition checked regularly to see how the treatment is progressing and thankfully, it’s still getting smaller, so I’m on the mend.

 "The diagnosis and treatment has changed my attitude towards life.

 “When the cancer was discovered, I thought I was perfectly healthy and had no idea that something so serious lay undiscovered.

“It goes to show that you never know what’s around the corner, so it’s important to enjoy every day. I used to worry a lot about little annoyances that life presents, but now I’ve learned to prioritise what really matters, and not to sweat the small stuff.

“I always lived quite a healthy lifestyle, but now I don’t take any risks with my health.

 “While NHS eye tests are free, Optomap scans cost £30, but you can’t put a price on your health. Without it, and the cancer going undetected, who knows where I’d be today.

 “I’d encourage anybody, regardless of how healthy they are or think they are, to seek out opticians and other health professionals that offer the latest technological advances to catch issues before they progress.”

Optomap scans five times more of the retina than standard digital retinal photography and produces a high-resolution image for the optician to assess. The technology provides greater detail of eye health and can help detect conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), Glaucoma and retinal tears/detachments. As the only place in the body where blood vessels can be seen directly, the retina can also be a window on your overall health. Optomap can detect underlying health conditions that may go unnoticed by a routine eye test, including; heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, strokes and some cancers.

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