Introduction and overview

Introduction and overview

This quality standard covers the recognition and initial management of ovarian cancer. For more information see the scope for this quality standard.


Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynaecological cancer in the UK, and its incidence is rising. It is the fifth most common cancer in women in England and Wales. It mostly affects women over the age of 50, but it can occur in younger women. There were more than 5500 new cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed in England in 2009. The outcome for women with ovarian cancer is generally poor, with an overall 5-year survival rate of less than 35%. This is because most women who have ovarian cancer present with advanced disease despite experiencing symptoms for, on average, 12 months.

The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be vague and similar to those associated with other conditions. However, there are a number of symptoms that do suggest ovarian cancer if they are experienced frequently and/or last a long time. Most women with ovarian cancer are treated with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.

There is a need for greater awareness of the disease and also for initial investigations in primary and secondary care that enable earlier referral and optimum treatment.

This quality standard describes markers of high-quality, cost-effective care that, when delivered collectively, should contribute to improving the effectiveness, safety and experience of care for people with ovarian cancer in the following ways:

  • Preventing people from dying prematurely.

  • Enhancing quality of life for people with long-term conditions.

  • Helping people to recover from episodes of ill health or following injury.

  • Ensuring that people have a positive experience of care.

  • Treating and caring for people in a safe environment and protecting them from avoidable harm.

The NHS Outcomes Framework 2011/12 is available from


The quality standard for ovarian cancer requires that services should be commissioned from and coordinated across all relevant agencies encompassing the diagnostic and initial management aspects of the ovarian cancer care pathway. An integrated approach to provision of services is fundamental to the delivery of high quality care to women with ovarian cancer.