Last September saw the release of data showing that the number of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer following an emergency presentation (such as A&E) had fallen from 31 per cent in 2006 to 26 per cent in 2013. Further data released in November showed an increasing number of women being diagnosed following referral by their GP. Both are a sign that National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines and our work to increase GPs awareness of ovarian cancer is paying off.
The new report from Public Health England however shows how these improvements vary across different groups. For example, over half of women with ovarian cancer aged 85 or over were diagnosed following an emergency presentation compared to just one in five women under 50. Women living in deprived areas were more likely to be diagnosed through an emergency presentation.
What’s more, of all these women then diagnosed via an emergency presentation, just 11 per cent of women aged 85 or over survived a year or more, compared to 72 per cent of women aged under 65.
The results emphasise the need for more people to know the symptoms of ovarian cancer, and to go equipped to their GP if they are experiencing these symptoms. Our work on symptoms awareness and early diagnosis aims to reduce the numbers of women diagnosed following an emergency presentation.
Tatum de Roeck’s mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in A&E. She said: “The cancer was at stage 4 when mum got her diagnosis in the emergency room. What took them so long? She had been to the doctor with stomach pains and other symptoms and was told that it was probably Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
“It seems to be a pretty common assumption by GPs when women present these kinds of symptoms, even though IBS is a really uncommon thing to just suddenly begin after the age of 50. We shouldn’t wait until it’s too late. We all need to be aware of the symptoms such as persistent bloating, stomach pain, difficulty eating and always needing to go to the loo. Then women can visit their doctors at the very first signs and the doctors could immediately order tests to rule out ovarian cancer.”