Helping recognise early symptoms of ovarian cancer

NICE has launched a quality standard to help with recognising the early symptoms of ovarian cancer.

NICE has launched a quality standard to help with recognising the early symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of gynaecological cancer in the UK, and has rising incidence. It is also the fifth most common cancer in women, with a lifetime risk of about 2 per cent in England and Wales.

Around 6,500 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, leading to about 4,400 deaths.

It can be hard to diagnose the condition, since some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer are similar to those seen in more common conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.

The quality standard consists of eight quality statements that describe high-quality, cost-effective care for the condition.

It says women aged 50 or above and reporting one or more symptoms occurring persistently, or frequently suggesting ovarian cancer, should be offered a CA125 test.

Furthermore, women with raised CA125 should have an ultrasound of their abdomen and pelvis within 2 weeks of receiving the CA125 test results.

Dr Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive 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."

NICE is also signposting GPs to two education tools that provide additional help with early diagnosis of the condition.

'Recognising early symptoms of ovarian cancer' is an online learning tool covering the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and diagnostic tests.

Based on the NICE clinical guideline for ovarian cancer, the hour-long interactive tool involves a series of case studies, testing knowledge of patient management, and provides up-to-date information on the condition's symptoms and risk factors.

On completion of the unit, GPs can download learning credits that go towards the Royal College of General Practitioner's CPD scheme.

'Ovarian cancer: recognising early symptoms in primary care' is an audio module examining the importance of early diagnosis and prognosis, risk factors, and signs and symptoms.

Chaired by Graham Easton, a GP in West London, and featuring two clinicians with a specialist interest in the condition, the module includes a discussion on further investigations, and methods of interpreting and conveying results to patients in primary care settings.

Both resources are jointly produced by Target Ovarian Cancer and BMJ Learning.