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Two women talkingClinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) are there to act as the main contact point for women with ovarian cancer, oversee their general care and offer advice and support. Access to a CNS has risen over time, as shown in Table 9.

Table 9 – Women with ovarian cancer reporting access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist

Pathfinder

Women reporting access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist (per cent)

2009

84

2012

89

2016

93

Of the nurses surveyed in 2016, 90 per cent said all women at their hospital were assigned a specialist nurse and the latest National Cancer Patient Experience Survey reinforces this with 93 per cent of women with ovarian cancer reporting being given the name of a CNS.28

When asked about the level of support they were able to provide women, only 46 per cent of the nurses responding to our survey felt their cancer centre or unit has enough nurses to care for all the women being treated there. The impact of this can be seen in nurses’ ability to meet the needs of women in their care with only 63 per cent saying they were able to meet all the medical needs of women, such as symptom control.

Women with ovarian cancer report significant levels of unmet needs. Just 58 per cent of those women needing support managing ascites (a build-up of fluid in the abdomen) had received it. Of those experiencing nausea, a common chemotherapy side effect, 69 per cent had received help and of those needing help with pain management, just 55 per cent had received this. This is comparable to the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey which found that just 60 per cent of women with ovarian cancer said there were always enough nurses on duty.29

It’s a similar scenario in relation to non-medical needs with only 48 per cent of CNSs reporting being able to meet women’s broader needs such as mental wellbeing, or issues like body image and sexuality. Treatment can have a huge impact on sex and intimacy, but just 12 per cent of women with ovarian cancer said anyone involved in their treatment had talked to them about this. Of those who needed it, just 24 per cent had received support with early onset menopause brought on by their treatment.

Nurses also reported difficulties in referring women for palliative care with just 54 per cent always able to refer women.