A TULLIBODY woman is part of a drive to secure MRI scans for patients in Scotland with a rare form of cancer.

Jennifer Lewis, 53, was diagnosed with ocular melanoma in 2013 following a routine eye examination at the opticians.

She underwent a procedure for the tumour, has regular check-ups and is offered abdominal ultrasounds to monitor potential spreads to the liver.

However, she feels this is not enough and is pressing the Scottish Government to offer a better level of care in the form of MRIs, which are available in England.

The mum-of-two believes it would allow for earlier detection of metastases and wants to see the situation change for all patients.

She said: "Often, ultrasounds do not pick up lesions until they have become advanced when any treatment to prolong life would not be worth having.

"Should the worst happen and my cancer spreads, I should be given every opportunity to treat the disease as early as possible to keep me healthy and this can only be achieved by having regular MRI scans.

"The anxiety this situation is causing me is life-consuming."

Jennifer has submitted a petition on this issue to the Scottish Parliament, demanding that ocular melanoma patients in Scotland "have a voice in their treatments" and asking that they be allowed to "plan their futures". It was debated earlier this year and is due to appear once again this month.

National cancer charity OcuMel UK has stepped up its fight. It is lobbying the Scottish Parliament to consider the issue of MRI scanning and, in correspondence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions clerk, it said research groups – comprising consultants specialising in ocular oncology, liver surgery, abdominal radiology and pathology – concluded these were the most effective way of detecting spread of the disease.

The organisation said that half of patients will develop the incurable form of the cancer and will have metastases (secondary malignant growths) occurring in another part of the body.

In 90 per cent of these cases,the disease will spread to the liver first allowing for detection to be targeted via scans.

Jennifer, who urges people to keep up to date with their eye check-ups, said she was delighted that OcuMel UK is pushing for the rights of Scottish patients, as it can be "a matter of life or death".

Jo Gumbs, national director at OcuMel UK, said: "We are concerned that lives could be at risk by patients not receiving the most appropriate type of scan to detect early spread of their cancer elsewhere in their body.

"We are informed the decision why patients in Scotland are being denied access to MRI scans is due to a lack of research into the effectiveness between MRI and ultrasound in detection of extremely rare cancer.

"It is not fair to penalise a patient of a rare cancer for this reason and it makes no economic sense.

"Ocular melanoma is an aggressive cancer with most people only surviving around six months if diagnosed with secondary disease.

"It is widely recognised that an ultrasound scan is inferior to MRI for early detection of disease and this cancer needs to be identified at the earliest opportunity to ensure the best possible outcome for the patient."