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350 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Wales every year. In recent years there has been an increasing effort to raise awareness of the disease.

In 2016 the then Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford AM asked the Velindre Cancer Centre and Target Ovarian Cancer to work in partnership to share information on the symptoms of ovarian cancer and the training available with all GPs in Wales.

In 2016 it was announced that Cwm Taf and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Boards would pilot new diagnostic centres with the aim of reducing the time it takes to diagnose cancer.

In 2017 the Welsh Assembly’s Petitions Committee called for a national awareness campaign in Wales, a recommendation further endorsed by Assembly Members when they debated the report.

However, survival rates for ovarian cancer continue to trail those for other cancers, including breast, bowel and womb, and nearly 240 women die of the disease in Wales every year.

It is clear more needs to be done and this is therefore a critical time to be publishing the first Pathfinder Wales, looking at women’s awareness of ovarian cancer, their experience of diagnosis and treatment and GP knowledge.

Pathfinder Wales is based on three different surveys:

  • Women in the general population
  • Women with ovarian cancer
  • Practising GPs

The report is structured around the patient pathway. It begins with awareness and diagnosis, before moving on to treatment and support. It also has sections looking at genetics, clinical trials and mental wellbeing and body image to present a more complete picture. While recognising the work that has been done already to improve the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer, Pathfinder Wales sets out what needs to happen next to transform outcomes for women living with ovarian cancer in Wales today, and those diagnosed tomorrow.

Pathfinder Wales English Language

Pathfinder Wales Welsh Language

The top three actions identified by Pathfinder Wales are:

  • The Welsh Government to commission a public facing awareness campaign that includes the symptoms of ovarian cancer so women know the symptoms to look out for and the importance of going to the GP.
  • Evaluation of impact of new cancer diagnostic centres’ pilot to include impact on ovarian cancer diagnoses.
  • NHS Wales to ensure all women with ovarian cancer are aware of where to go for support, including counselling.

Key findings from Pathfinder Wales

Symptoms awareness

Women in Wales have an alarmingly low awareness of ovarian cancer symptoms - just one in five can name bloating as one of them. This leaves women without knowledge that could save lives. Awareness of all four main symptoms – abdominal bloating, tummy pain, difficulty eating or feeling full and needing to wee more often or urgently – is similarly low, while one in four women (27 per cent) wrongly assumes that cervical screening also detects ovarian cancer

17% of women are able to name bloating as a symptom of ovarian cancer   27% of women incorrectly believe cervical screening also detects ovarian cancer

Diagnosis

36% of women visit their GP three times or more before being referred for diagnostic tests36 per cent of women subsequently diagnosed with ovarian cancer visited their GP three times or more before being referred for diagnostic tests and 29 per cent of women were initially referred for tests for something other than ovarian cancer.