EYE cancer patients in Scotland are missing out on a "gold standard" level of care available to patients south of the Border, campaigners have warned.

Patients and charity leaders will today call on MSPs to push for MRI screening to detect the spread of cancerous lesions to the liver in people diagnosed with ocular melanoma, the most common form of eye cancer.

There are four specialist centres in the UK - in Liverpool, London, Sheffield and Glasgow. However, the specialist centre at Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow is the only one of the four where patients have their eyes and livers scanned using ultrasound instead of MRI during their routine six-month check ups. In 90 per cent of cases where the disease spreads from the eye to other parts of the body, it will take hold in the liver first.

However, campaigners argue that ultrasound is less effective than MRI for this cancer.

Jennifer Lewis, 53, from Tullibody in Clackmannanshire, said: "Metastasis to the liver presents differently in ocular melanoma than from metastases in other types of cancer because it 'peppers' the liver, and the lesions are really very tiny. An ultrasound can only pick them up at a certain measurement, whereas an MRI can pick them up when they're really tiny.

"If I got MRI scans, my anxiety levels would be so much lower. I could walk away and trust them that my liver's clear or walk away knowing that metastasis has happened but put the steps in motion to treat it. The longer it takes to detect, the more the chances of survival are lessened."

Eye cancer is rare, although Scotland has slightly higher rates than the rest of the UK. In 2014, there were 73 diagnoses in Scotland.

Mrs Lewis, a prison officer and mother-of-two who also cares for her 85-year-old mother, moved to Tullibody from Inverness in 2014 to be nearer to Gartnavel after being diagnosed with ocular melanoma. The tumour at the back of her eye, which measured five millimetres by nine millimetres (0.2 by 0.35 inches), was first spotted during a routine visit to her optician.

She underwent brachytherapy, a type of radiotherapy where a radioactive plaque placed directly onto the tumour to shrink it. Since then the cancer has stabilised but she fears it will return.

Half of patients with eye cancer go on to develop incurable tumours elsewhere in their body.

Mrs Lewis' petition has been backed by patients and specialists including Dr Iain Wilson, a radiologist from University Hospital Southampton, who said it was "clear from evidence that the gold standard for the identification of metastasis in the liver is magnetic resonance scanning (MRI)".

He added: "My experience strengthens my belief that MRI is the only realistic method of monitoring these patients."

Jo Gumbs, National Director at eye cancer charity OcuMel UK, is also supporting the petition. She said: "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.”

There is currently no official guidance for the use of MRI scans in ocular melanoma, but a UK-wide group - which includes Scottish Specialist Ophthalmic Oncology Service - has recently been formed to share expertise and develop UK wide guidance and recommendations on surveillance for people with ocular melanoma.

In its response to the petition, the Scottish Government said this would "ensure a consistent approach to screening and surveillance for people across the whole of the UK, regardless of where they live".

The Scottish Government added that the Scottish Oncology Service are currently undertaking a study of all their patients who develop secondary tumours to determine whether a delay in diagnosis was incurred due to the use of liver ultrasound. It added that the findings "may have an impact on service delivery".