An early diagnosis of ovarian cancer should be the norm. Too many women experience misdiagnosis and delays because GPs are not appropriately educated or supported to diagnose ovarian cancer quickly. Here’s what Target Ovarian Cancer is doing about it…
Investing in education
In the past 12 months Target Ovarian Cancer has made huge progress in GP education. We have presented at GP training days attracting 6,000 visitors, given out over 600 of our GP toolkits, and had over 250 GPs attend one of our seminar sessions on ovarian cancer.
“Ovarian cancer seminars are a fantastic way of updating GP knowledge, it’s the best way for them to consider the nitty gritty of diagnosis, ask burning questions and discuss with their peers and experts the dilemmas they have faced”, says Dr Sharon Tate, Head of Primary Care Development.
We have been busy developing our GP toolkit with the addition of two new factsheets. Diagnostic tests for ovarian cancer is full of advice on when and how to use CA125 blood tests and ultrasound tests. The Familial ovarian cancer fact sheet helps GPs navigate often tricky conversations around family history and genetic risk.
"Our GP toolkit is packed with resources that help busy GPs update their knowledge of ovarian cancer without even leaving the surgery. They can learn about symptoms, how to use CA125 blood tests and ultrasound tests, and when to refer patients to genetic services", says Dr Tate.
It’s been busy but it’s certainly not the work of one person. We rely on the support of volunteers willing to give their time and expertise to change the experience for both GPs and women, like Dr Vicky Barber, a GP from Northamptonshire.
Dr Barber has experienced first-hand the challenges of diagnosing ovarian cancer in a 10-minute GP appointment slot. But she has plenty of hints and tips for her fellow GPs which she shares during our ovarian cancer seminar sessions. “Do not diagnose new IBS in women over 50. You will be wrong. Think ovarian cancer instead”, says Dr Barber. Her insights and expertise have been invaluable in helping us shape the content of our new GP factsheets.
Pauline knows only too well how it feels to have a delayed ovarian cancer diagnosis. Despite having symptoms including bloating and change in bowel habit, two GPs misdiagnosed her with a bowel blockage. Pauline’s symptoms became so unbearable she was rushed to her local A&E where her tumour was detected. Had Pauline’s GPs been more knowledgeable, her ovarian cancer could have been diagnosed earlier.
Unfortunately, Pauline’s story is far from unusual and every year 27 per cent of women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in A&E. Pauline was lucky to be able to undergo treatment including chemotherapy and surgery. Not all women have this life-saving chance, and one in five are too ill to even receive treatment. Diagnosing ovarian cancer just a few weeks earlier could make a huge difference to a woman’s treatment options.
Since her diagnosis, Pauline has been proactive in taking steps to ensure the future is brighter for women with ovarian cancer. She has become a valued and involved volunteer, giving up her time to prepare all the materials and hundreds of GP toolkit bags we take to GP training days.
We are also extremely grateful to Dr Barber for taking time from her busy practice to share her knowledge and support her fellow GPs. Expanding and building on our GP education work is a top priority. Together we can make sure women are diagnosed at the earliest possible stage.