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Ovarian Cancer Not Being Caught Early Enough By GPs

Posted Aug 27 2009 9:45pm

Thousands of women could experience hold backs in getting their ovarian cancer diagnosed, even after visiting their GP with their symptoms, says new research.


Ovarian cancer is a deadly disease with 6,800 new diagnoses in Britain every year, 4,300 of which will result in death - making it the fifth most common cancer in women.

Chances of survival are greatly increased if treatment is undertaken early enough with rates at 70 per cent, however currently only a third of women are receiving these life-saving early diagnoses.

New research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) is also warning that some doctors may be missing the opportunity to give an early diagnosis because of specific symptoms not being recognised as one which indicates urgent action, according to the current guidelines.

They further added that any woman experiencing a distended abdomen should urgently seek advice and have their symptoms investigated to check for the disease.

However the current UK guidelines suggest women should not receive a referral unless they are suffering from abnormal bleeding or a palpable mass that is not thought to be fibroids.

A team at the University of Bristol undertook the research at their department of community-based medicine, investigating 212 women from 39 general practices throughout Devon.

All the women were over the age of 40 and were compared to 1,000 healthy women. The research team studied the various symptoms that the women had suffered from, and established that the majority of them had reported these symptoms to their GPs.

  “Women with ovarian cancer usually have symptoms and report them to primary care, sometimes months before diagnosis,” they said.

“Several recent studies have shown that symptoms are common, though they often go unrecognised by women and doctors. Abdominal pain, abdominal distension, pelvic pain, increased urinary frequency, constipation or diarrhoea, abnormal vaginal bleeding, weight loss, abdominal bloating and fatigue have all been reported.”

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