A Leeds-based optometrist has highlighted the Spot Leukaemia awareness campaign after being diagnosed with the disease herself in 2019.

‘I would like to raise awareness of the vague and often missed symptoms of leukaemia,’ explained Janine Black. ‘As an optometrist, one of the most rewarding, but sometimes upsetting, aspects of the job is identifying systemic pathology. Last Autumn, I had my own medical emergency.’

Black first noticed a shortness of breath while on holiday with her daughter, before she developed a dry cough and mild flu-like symptoms. Following a number of appointments with GPs Black’s shortness of breath worsened and she began to experience weight loss. She was booked in for a blood test but prior to receiving the results, she developed a large black arcuate floater in her right eye and asked another optometrist at her practice to examine her to rule out a retinal tear.

Black’s colleague discovered Roth’s Spots, oval shaped haemorrhages with white centres that signal hypoxia, below the right optic disc and below both maculae. Black and her colleague feared that these haemorrhages were a symptom of leukaemia, which was confirmed by the results of a blood test.

Now in remission, Black has thrown her weight behind the Spot Leukaemia campaign run by Leukaemia Care. The campaign seeks to educate GPs and other health care professionals about the disease. ‘Many leukaemia patients visit their GP several times before presenting at hospital as an emergency and, for many, it is sadly too late,’ she explained.

Leukaemia Care offers a free to access training course for optometrists on its website which provides a certificate upon completion. The course can be accessed at leukaemiaelearning.org.uk