Today sees the launch of a pilot NHS ovarian cancer early detection service aimed at women with the BRCA mutation.
The pilot, known as the ALDO project (Avoiding Late Diagnosis in Ovarian Cancer), will use a regular blood test measuring CA125 levels to detect ovarian cancer among women with the BRCA mutation.
Women with a fault in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are at a significantly increased risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer. The most effective way to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer for these women is to have preventative surgery (removal of both the ovaries and fallopian tubes). However, women may choose to delay surgery, to complete their families or to reduce side effects, which can include infertility and premature menopause. Unlike with breast cancer, there is currently no NHS ovarian cancer surveillance for these women.
Mr Adam Rosenthal, who is speaking at our Ask the Experts conference in just a few weeks’ time, and is the Clinical Director for the ALDO project, said: “It is clear that for women with a faulty BRCA gene, having surgery to remove their ovaries and fallopian tubes is the most effective way of preventing ovarian cancer. However, thousands of women choose to delay surgery for a variety of reasons including completing their family or avoiding early menopause. This pilot project will be the first time that an ovarian cancer surveillance service is piloted in the NHS, and the hope is that this will become standard practice for women with a faulty BRCA gene in the not too distant future. We want this service to be available to all women with a faulty BRCA gene who are not yet ready to have surgery to remove their ovaries and fallopian tubes.”
Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “For women at a higher risk of ovarian cancer, preventative surgery is still the most effective way to reduce their risk. This can be a very difficult choice for many women, particularly younger women. This pilot project is to be welcomed in giving women who are at a higher risk of ovarian cancer more options in the short term to manage that risk, and we look forward to seeing the project outcomes. In the meantime, we need to continue our focus on raising awareness of symptoms with GPs and the public in order to address the issue of late diagnosis more widely, and we repeat our call for a government-led symptoms awareness campaign.”
To be eligible to take part in the ALDO pilot, women need to meet the following criteria:
- Have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
- Are aged 35 or over
- Have not had both ovaries removed at surgery. Women can still take part if only one ovary has been removed or if they have one or both of fallopian tubes
- Are willing to travel to London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, North Tees or Southampton for any follow up investigations, should these be necessary.