Brain Tumour Awareness Month: Calls for islanders to be aware of symptoms as early detection is key

  • ITV Channel's Megan Murphy has been to meet one islander who is learning to live with his diagnosis

Doctors across the Channel Islands want islanders to be more aware of the symptoms of brain tumours.

March is Brain Tumour Awareness Month and this year focuses on the importance of early detection.

The earlier a mass in the brain is identified, the better options for treatment can be offered.

Dr Howard Gibson, Jersey's consultant neurologist, says islanders need to be aware of the symptoms.

He said: "In almost all medical conditions, it's not a good idea to ignore your symptoms.

"Once you become concerned about your symptoms, particularly in the case with brain tumours, symptoms that are getting slowly worse over time.

"You are really better going to see your doctor about that and getting it checked out."

As islanders may need surgery following their diagnosis, it is better the masses are identified sooner rather than later.

Dr Gibson said: "Because these things get bigger over time, and if you are going to remove them, it's easier when they're smaller, so it's better if we find them earlier."

Symptoms of a brain tumour:

  • Regular fatigue

  • Memory problems

  • Changes to your vision

  • Changes to your balance

  • A recurring headache that does not go away

Treatment options in the Channel Islands are limited, with many islanders having to travel to the UK for their care.

Currently, if patients require surgery on their brains or receive radiotherapy, the procedures have to take place in a UK hospital and not in the Bailiwicks.

However, if they only require chemotherapy to treat their tumour, this can be done locally.

Ryan O'Shea, from Jersey, was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year, aged 25.

Ryan has a Grade 1 Diffuse Astrocytoma, which has not been able to be operated on.

His tumour is uncommon in younger people, with it mainly affecting those between 55 and 65 years old.

Ryan discovered his brain tumour after an optician found yellowing in his eyes Credit: ITV Channel

Ryan's journey started after he was experiencing migraines and bad headaches for around six months, before seeing his doctor.

After going for an eye test to check his vision was not the cause of the headaches, the optician found yellowing in his eyes - an early indicator of a brain tumour.

The diagnosis of a mass came quickly after.

Ryan said: "They told me I had a mass in my head - and quite a large one.

"Between my meeting with Dr Gibson and being flown to the UK, I had to sign my will, which is something I wasn't really expecting to do at this point in my life.

"So that was quite a shocker, that took a lot out of me."

After his diagnosis, Ryan is now running more regularly which has helped him to cope with the mental pressure of a brain tumour.

Ryan has now taken up long distance running to help with his mental health Credit: ITV Channel

"I try to run three or four times a week and I just love it, I can forget about everything that's happened to me and I am just like anyone else that's running.

"I have found that if I don't keep busy and I let my thoughts get the better of me, it can put me in a bit of a darker place.

"But that's when the Brain Tumour Charity is there to support me and the lady I speak to, she's not available 24/7, but I can message her at any time. We have quite a close connection now."

As well as the mental benefits, Ryan has decided to run half marathons to raise money for the Jersey Brain Tumour Charity, which helped him during his diagnosis.

The Jersey Brain Tumour Charity launched in 2011 and provides much-needed support for islanders following a brain tumour diagnosis.

They offer help to brain tumour patients of any age living in Jersey, their families and friends cope physically and emotionally with the changes that happen because of a brain tumour diagnosis.

Islanders also have access to one-to-one sessions with qualified counsellors, free of charge.

Fiona Potts, Trustee at the Jersey Brain Tumour Charity Credit: ITV Channel

Fiona Potts, Trustee at the Jersey Brain Tumour Charity, said: " We rely on donations from legacy, fundraising, personal donations and corporate donations. It's totally self-funded, there's no government funding at all.

"The charity is actually fully run by volunteers, from anybody on the trustee board, through to the volunteers and ambassadors that help at the events as well - so it's all done by people giving up their time."

You can find out more information on brain tumours and the support on offer here.

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