NICE publishes new ovarian cancer quality standard

NICE has today (23 May) published a new quality standard for ovarian cancer, which states that an integrated approach to the diagnosis and management of the disease is fundamental to the delivery of high quality care to women.

Every year in the UK, there are around 6,500 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and about 4,400 deaths from the disease. It is more common in women over the age of 50i. Some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer are similar to those seen in more common conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) so it can be hard to diagnose. Other symptoms include:

  • Persistent pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Needing to pass urine more urgently or more often than usual

The new quality standard for ovarian cancer consists of eight quality statements that describe high-quality, cost-effective care that should contribute to improving the effectiveness, safety and experience of care for women with ovarian cancer. The standard states that women aged 50 years or over reporting one or more symptoms occurring persistently or frequently suggesting ovarian cancer should be offered a CA125 testii. It also states that women with raised CA125 should have an ultrasound of their abdomen and pelvis within 2 weeks of receiving the CA125 test results. Women with a mass, growth or lump next to their uterus, which usually arises from the ovary or fallopian tube, (called an adnexal mass), and found by ultrasound should be offered magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to help determine if the lesion is benign or malignant.

Dr Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at NICE said: "We know that the poor survival rates of ovarian cancer may be linked to late diagnosis, which is often because of a lack of awareness of the early symptoms, which include abdominal bloating or pain and difficulty eating. The disease is more prevalent in women over 50, who often mistake its symptoms for the menopause. Therefore, it is important that there are clear, measureable standards that can help drive improvements in the diagnosis, care and treatment of this disease. Quality standards also help to achieve the goals set out in the NHS Outcomes Frameworkiii, as well as informing new Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF)iv indicators."

The new quality standard is available on the NICE website from 00:01 hrs on Wednesday 23 May at:


Notes to Editors


1. Target Ovarian Cancer.

2. A CA125 test is a blood test which measures the amount of a protein produced by some ovarian cancers in the blood.

3. The Transparency in Outcomes Framework for the NHS proposes using quality standards to produce more detailed commissioning guidance to meet the suggested outcome goals.

4. More information on the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF).

About the quality standards

1. The new quality standard is available on the NICE website from 00:01 hrs on Wednesday 23 May.

Embargoed copies are available on request; please contact the press office.

2. NICE quality standards (QS) are a set of specific, concise statements and measures that act as markers of high-quality, clinical and cost-effective patient care. They apply nationally in health and social care, and are developed from the very best available evidence, such as NICE guidance or other NHS Evidence-accredited sources. Quality standards are produced with the NHS and social care, along with their partners, service users and carers. They are a pivotal part of the new NHS Outcomes Framework, an overview of aims and objectives in improving patient outcomes in the NHS.

3. Quality standard topics are referred to NICE by ministers on the advice of the National Quality Board, a group of representatives from health and social care, committed to improving quality in the NHS and overseeing the reforms aimed at improving care.

4. More information on NICE quality standards.

Related guidance

5. Ovarian cancer: the recognition and initial management of ovarian cancer. NICE clinical guideline 122 (2011; NHS Evidence accredited).

6. Guidance on the use of paclitaxel in the treatment of ovarian cancer. NICE technology appraisal guidance 55 (2003)*.

7. Paclitaxel, pegylated liposomal doxorubicin hydrochloride and topotecan for second-line or subsequent treatment of advanced ovarian cancer. NICE technology appraisal guidance 91 (2005)*.

8. Trabectedin for the treatment of relapsed ovarian cancer. NICE technology appraisal guidance 222 (2011; NHS Evidence accredited)*.

9. The Royal College of Radiologists (2012; NHS Evidence accredited). iRefer: Making the best use of clinical radiology: referral guidelines.

*NICE technology appraisal guidance 55, 91 and 222 were used in the development of draft quality statements only and do not appear in the final standard.

About NICE

10. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance and standards on the promotion of good health and the prevention and treatment of ill health.

11. NICE produces guidance in three areas of health:

  • public health - guidance on the promotion of good health and the prevention of ill health for those working in the NHS, local authorities and the wider public and voluntary sector
  • health technologies - guidance on the use of new and existing medicines, treatments, medical technologies (including devices and diagnostics) and procedures within the NHS
  • clinical practice - guidance on the appropriate treatment and care of people with specific diseases and conditions within the NHS.

12. NICE produces standards for patient care:

  • quality standards - these reflect the very best in high quality patient care, to help healthcare practitioners and commissioners of care deliver excellent services
  • Quality and Outcomes Framework - NICE develops the clinical and health improvement indicators in the QOF, the Department of Health scheme which rewards GPs for how well they care for patients.

13. NICEprovides advice and support on putting NICE guidance and standards into practice through its implementation programme, and it collates and accredits high quality health guidance, research and information to help health professionals deliver the best patient care through NHS Evidence.

This page was last updated: 22 May 2012

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Accessibility | Cymraeg | Freedom of information | Vision Impaired | Contact Us | Glossary | Data protection | Copyright | Disclaimer | Terms and conditions

Copyright 2014 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. All rights reserved.