Call for action to detect ovarian cancer earlier
Published: 27th Apr 2011 01:08:46
GPs should offer more blood tests to try to detect ovarian cancer earlier, according to new guidelines for the NHS.
Almost 7,000 UK women a year are diagnosed with the disease, but only about a third are still alive five years on.
NHS advisers want to see greater use of a blood test that measures a key protein, to improve early diagnosis.
Doctors and cancer charities have welcomed the guidelines.
They have been drawn up by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which makes recommendations on medicines and procedures in the NHS.
Key symptoms are bloating, lower abdominal pain, feeling full after eating only a small amount, and needing to urinate with increased frequency.
A member of the guideline group, Sean Duffy, from the Yorkshire Cancer Network, said: "The symptoms can be vague, but shouldn't be ignored if they are persistent.
"By persistent, we mean them occurring more than 12 times a month.
Linda Facey was 43 and on holiday with her husband and two children when she began feeling unwell.
Seven weeks later, she was struggling to get out of bed.
She had a swollen stomach and was diagnosed with stage-three ovarian cancer.
Since her diagnosis in 2001, Mrs Facey has had four courses of chemotherapy and also pelvic radiotherapy.
She still has check-ups every six months - and urges any woman with symptoms suggesting ovarian cancer to see their GP.
Mrs Facey, from Gosport in Hampshire, said: "My waistline was persistently bigger - even within a week.
"I thought it was just changes to my body as I got older.
"I'm involved with a support group in Portsmouth and I still regularly meet women who are diagnosed too late."
"The vast majority of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed at a late stage, so we hope to see improvements in survival as a result of these guidelines.
"Sometimes doctors tell women they have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - but NICE has already produced guidelines to say this is unusual as a new diagnosis in women over 50."
The test, which measures a protein called CA125, costs about £20.
NICE says more testing will not be more expensive for the NHS in the long run, because it will save some women from having inappropriate investigations.
The blood test detects cancer only about half of the time - but experts believe using it more often, as well as ultrasound scans where necessary, and encouraging women to be more aware of the symptoms, will improve the UK's "disappointing" survival rate for ovarian cancer.
A consultant gynaecological oncologist, Mr Charles Redman, said: "This strategy won't be the perfect answer, but we think it will make a measurable difference.
"Trying to encourage women who might have ovarian cancer to present earlier will undoubtedly give the NHS challenges and mean changes for hospital doctors like myself.
"But the current situation is very poor. Other countries do better than us."
Dr Clare Gerada, of the Royal College of GPs, said: "This is not about increasing GPs' workloads - it is about working as effectively as possible with the tools available to us, to achieve the best possible outcomes for women."
Target Ovarian Cancer's public affairs director, Frances Reid, said: "This guidance could save hundreds of lives.
"It is now imperative to include ovarian cancer in the Department of Health's cancer awareness campaigns, so that women know to go and ask for these tests."
Ovarian Cancer Action's chief executive, Gilda Witte, said: "Significant progress has been made in improving survival figures for ovarian cancer over the last 10 years, but there is a long way to go in beating the disease."
At 19:54:47 in Northern IrelandA 25-year-old man has been taken to hospital after a suspected stabbing in north Belfast.
At 19:39:37 in HeadlinesRussia's decision to send more than 100 aid lorries into war-torn eastern Ukraine without permission has been widely condemned in the West.
At 19:31:43 in HeadlinesLithuania says its honorary consul in the rebel-held city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine has been murdered by "terrorists" there.
At 19:31:42 in SportFormer Scotland coach Alex McLeish has been named as the new manager of Belgian side KRC Genk.
At 19:26:26 in HeadlinesIsraeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said military operations will "intensify" after an Israeli boy was killed by fire from Gaza.
At 19:20:11 in HealthThe UK medicines watchdog is to review the safety of a clot-busting drug often used to treat strokes.
At 19:17:17 in EntertainmentAmbridge is to get a dose of pop star royalty after it was revealed that pop duo Pet Shop Boys are to make a cameo appearance on Radio 4's The Archers.
At 19:14:27 in EnglandA St Helens pub landlady and her partner have been sentenced after selling drinks from bottles of alcohol deemed unsafe for human consumption.
At 19:11:26 in EnglandA disabled woman has abandoned her legal case against a bus company over its policy on wheelchair spaces.
At 19:03:55 in EnglandSome patients may have to go off island for treatment after an X-ray machine in Guernsey was put out of action.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2011. Call for action to detect ovarian cancer earlier [Online] (Updated 27th Apr 2011)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/149124/Call-for-action-to-detect-ovarian-cancer-earlier [Accessed 22nd Aug 2014]
News In Other Categories
A 91-year-old great-grandmother needed surgery after being bitten by a dog while walking home in Cardiff.
Former Scotland coach Alex McLeish has been named as the new manager of Belgian side KRC Genk.
The brother of two killers has admitted attempting to murder a key witness who helped convict them.
A 25-year-old man has been taken to hospital after a suspected stabbing in north Belfast.
A St Helens pub landlady and her partner have been sentenced after selling drinks from bottles of alcohol deemed unsafe for human consumption.
The bosses of the BBC and South Yorkshire Police have been summoned to appear before MPs after a claim of a "cover-up" over a recent police raid on Sir Cliff Richard's Berkshire home.