South East Wales

Benign tumour discovery after Merthyr girl's eye test

Chloe Jones and Brian Borland
Image caption Chloe Jones' tumour was discovered during a routine visit to the opticians

A sixth form student had an unwanted birthday present when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour the size of an orange during a routine visit to the optician.

Chloe Jones, 17, from Merthyr, booked an eye test last May as she was suffering from headaches.

But what she thought was short-sightedness turned out to be a benign tumour pressing on her optic nerve.

Doctors believe she had the growth from birth.

Despite being 10cm in diameter, Chloe had no other obvious symptoms, but its size meant that it was potentially life-threatening.

Within two days, she underwent six hours of neuro-surgery at the University of Wales Hospital in Cardiff, which involved her scalp being peeled back "like a swimming cap", and having her skull sawed open.

"It's nuts to think that I had something that size inside my head and didn't really know anything about it," said Chloe.

"I had headaches reading at school, but I pretty much just thought that was needing glasses - that's why I was at the opticians.

"Other than that I had a vein in my temple which used to throb when I got mad, and apparently that was the tumour putting pressure on the blood vessels.

"When the optician was telling me I had this thing that could kill me, I was just tamping that I had to cancel my driving lesson and go to hospital on my birthday."

The man who made the potentially life-saving diagnosis was Specsavers optometrist Brian Borland, who admits that he was more nervous than Chloe.

'Nervous'

"It's the kind of thing we're trained to look for in an eye test, but it's still not common," he said.

"I've seen two or three in eight years as an optometrist, and never in someone as young as Chloe.

"But it was pretty obvious that something was pushing Chloe's eye forward in her socket. I couldn't tell for definite it was a brain tumour, but I knew whatever it was, it wasn't good.

"I was much more nervous as optometrists are used to being able to fix the problem, so we don't get a lot of practice at delivering bad news.

"Thankfully brain tumours are very rare, but thousands of people in Wales have undiagnosed diabetes or glaucoma, and like Chloe, they won't have noticed a single thing wrong with them."

Eight months on, and Chloe is back at school with no ill-effects from either the tumour or the surgery.

She is hoping to study fashion at Cardiff University later this year, and she has been able to take up the driving lessons she was forced to postpone.

"I could have gone blind, or even died, but I was most worried about what it was going to do to my hair," she added.

"Only problem is that last year I passed my Welch Baccalaureate with a brain tumour, so the pressure's really on this summer."