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Women with ovarian cancer “face delays in diagnosis”

26 August 2009

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Only one in three women is diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the early stages, despite many visiting GPs to report their symptoms, researchers have said.

This fifth most common cancer in women is the cause of 4,300 deaths in the UK. The survival rate is above 70% if caught early. Around 6,800 new cases are diagnosed every year in the UK.

A main symptom of ovarian cancer may be missed by some doctors because it is not included in the current guidance for urgent investigation, experts wrote in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Common symptoms that could go unnoticed include abdominal pain, abdominal distension, pelvic pain, increased urinary frequency, constipation or diarrhoea, abnormal vaginal bleeding, weight loss, abdominal bloating and fatigue.

The experts added that women should be immediately sent for tests if they report a bloated abdomen.

However, the UK guidance for urgent investigation suggests that women should be sent for tests only if they report abnormal bleeding or have an easily perceptible mass that is not fibroids.

Researchers indicated that even though some women reported a distended abdomen, frequent urination and, abdominal pain, they had to wait for at least half a year for diagnosis.

The experts at the University of Bristol surveyed 212 women from 39 general practices in Devon, all aged over 40, and compared the data with more than a thousand healthy women as controls.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

British Medical Journal