GP with stethescope around his neck faces a computer
Facebook Facebook Share
Posted by Target Ovarian Cancer on Monday 24 April 2017

Target Ovarian Cancer’s GP Advisory Board today releases a report showing significant regional variation in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer in England. While over half of women are diagnosed with early-stage disease in some areas, other areas lag behind with just one in five women diagnosed early.

Delays in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer often mean the cancer is more advanced, making it harder to treat. Ensuring more women are diagnosed sooner is critical if we are to see significant improvements in survival rates, which are low in the UK and trail those of the rest of Europe1.

The GP Advisory Board is led by Professor Nigel Sparrow OBE, Senior National GP Advisor to the Care Quality Commission. Their report, Regional variation in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer in England, examines data from Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England on how many diagnostic tests are being ordered, the stage at which women are being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and one-year survival rates.

In some parts of England, over half of women are diagnosed at an early stage, which makes the disease easier to treat. In other areas, just one in five women is diagnosed early. There is also a worrying variation in one-year survival rates – that is the number of women who survive for a year or more following their diagnosis. This ranges from over 90 per cent of women in some areas to less than 60 per cent in others.

The two major diagnostic tests for ovarian cancer are blood tests and ultrasound. The report finds substantial variation in the number of CA125 blood tests carried out in each CCG, with 90 times more tests per 1,000 practice population in the area with the highest number of referrals compared to the lowest. There is also significant variation in the time taken to complete non-obstetric ultrasounds, with over 80 per cent of tests completed within a fortnight in some areas compared to almost zero in others.

Professor Nigel Sparrow OBE, Chair of Target Ovarian Cancer’s GP Advisory Board, said: “Bringing together the data in this report for the first time allows us to see the bigger picture in early diagnosis of ovarian cancer, an area where we know there have been significant issues for many years. Examining data from England, where it is readily available, we hope to start a conversation about what different CCGs can learn from each other and make sure women have the best chance of surviving the disease, wherever they live.

“Some variation that we saw in the report may be due to differences in local populations, but of real concern are differences in awareness of the symptoms among women, GP knowledge and the diagnostic pathway, meaning the availability of tests varies from area to area. Making changes in these areas will save lives.”

Find out more


The Regional Variation report was written using data from NHS England.

Coleman et al. (2011) Cancer survival in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the UK, 1995—2007 (the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership): an analysis of population-based cancer registry data. The Lancet, 377(9760): 127-138.