Today Public Health England have published the latest data on the routes by which women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed. We know that the earlier women are diagnosed, the greater their chances of surviving ovarian cancer. Women who are diagnosed at a later stage are often diagnosed once the cancer has already spread, making treatment more difficult. Today’s data shows that less than half of women diagnosed via an emergency presentation live for a year or more following diagnosis, compared to over 80 per cent of women diagnosed following a GP referral.
In September initial data showed that the number of women with ovarian cancer diagnosed via an emergency presentation (through A&E or an emergency referral from a GP or consultant) had fallen to 26 per cent in 2013. This compares to a figure of 32 per cent in 2006. This is positive news as it suggests that more women are being diagnosed earlier and that Target Ovarian Cancer’s work to raise awareness and better support GPs is having an effect.
Urgent referral increase
The data out today also shows that there has also been a dramatic increase in the number of women with ovarian cancer who are diagnosed following a two-week wait (an urgent referral when a GP has discovered ascites or a pelvic or abdominal mass upon examining a woman). In 2006 22 per cent of women with ovarian cancer were diagnosed following a two-week wait referral, but in 2013 this had risen to 31 per cent. This is again really positive news and follows the introduction of NICE guidelines in 2011, which Target Ovarian Cancer was involved with, which provided the referral pathway for women with ovarian cancer.
Together with the fall in the number of women diagnosed via an emergency presentation, this suggests that more women are being diagnosed after being referred by their GP rather than following an emergency presentation.
More to be done
Finally, the data shows that there has been little change in the number of women diagnosed through a non-urgent GP referral. In 2006, 25 per cent of women with ovarian cancer were diagnosed following a referral by their GP and in 2013 this had risen to 26 per cent. These are women who will be referred first for CA125 testing then an ultrasound before being referred to a specialist if these indicate the possibility of ovarian cancer. Therefore while women are being diagnosed earlier, this shows that there is more to be done to ensure women are diagnosed at the earliest possible opportunity.
Rebecca Rennison, Director of Public Affairs at Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “This latest data is good news in our work to improve early diagnosis, and something we have worked very hard to achieve. Going forward we need to work to further bring down the number of women diagnosed via an emergency presentation and see more women diagnosed at the earliest stage through their GP. We will continue to invest in our work with GPs and our training modules, as we know these are having an impact. We know that increased awareness and earlier diagnosis will save lives, and it is vital we maintain the momentum achieved so far.”