First routine eye check uncovers brain tumour in five-year-old girl

Lerwick store director and optometrist Thomas Bruin with little Etta.  Picture: Specsavers/PA Wire
Lerwick store director and optometrist Thomas Bruin with little Etta. Picture: Specsavers/PA Wire
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A five-year-old girl was diagnosed as having a large brain tumour on her spinal cord after attending a routine eye check-up.

Etta Hannah, from Lerwick in Shetland, went for her first eye health check at the town’s Specsavers store before starting school this year.

The examination of the back of her eye raised cause for concern and she was referred for an emergency hospital appointment and a CT scan.

The scan at the Gilbert Bain Hospital revealed Etta had extreme swelling of the optic nerve which could have resulted in the loss of her sight.

Further tests and an MRI scan at the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital uncovered a large brain tumour at the back of Etta’s neck, which had spread down her spine.

She has now had surgery to reduce the size of the tumour and is embarking on 18 months of low-level chemotherapy.

Etta’s father Robert Hannah said: “I had noticed some changes in Etta’s behaviour and a lack of appetite, but I would never have thought it could be a brain tumour.

“We made several appointments with the doctor and health visitors but with no diagnosis, and being told I was overreacting, I had to go with my parental gut instinct and keep looking for ways to figure it out.

“If you feel there is something not right, an eye test could help rule out any concerns. Finally we have an answer and Etta can get the treatment she needs.”

The family’s experience was revealed by Specsavers at the start of national eye health awareness week, as the firm stressed the importance of having regular eye health checks.

Thomas Bruin, store director of Specsavers in Lerwick, who carried out the initial test, said: “We can detect several underlying health conditions from an eye health check, it’s not simply changes in prescription.

“During national eye health week this week, and throughout the year, we’re encouraging everyone in Scotland to stop and think about their eye health and book that all important test.

“We recommend getting your eyes checked every two years and, as tests are free through the NHS in Scotland, there really is no reason to delay.

“Etta’s case, although very rare, is an example of just how vital an eye exam can be.”

The schoolgirl’s mother Jennifer Murray said: “I’m so grateful to Thomas at Specsavers, his early detection and perseverance in arranging our appointment with the eye specialist doctor made all the difference.

“I believe he helped save my daughter’s sight.”