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Posted by Target Ovarian Cancer on Sunday 20 December 2009

This important new initiative will help update GPs about symptoms of ovarian cancer.

The Target Ovarian Cancer Pathfinder Study (June 2009) identified that many GPs were not aware of the new research on symptoms of ovarian cancer, or the new 'key messages for health professionals' developed by the Department of Health and other key stakeholders in February 2009.

As part of a programme of activity to help GPs diagnose ovarian cancer earlier, Target Ovarian Cancer has commissioned the BMJ Group (British Medical Journal) to develop an online continuing professional development module on diagnosing ovarian cancer. This means the module will be available FREE to all users.

To be launched in early Spring 2010, this module will use interactive case histories to develop knowledge and understanding around the importance of frequent and persistent key symptoms, together with the main risk factors for ovarian cancer.

Target Ovarian Cancer's Director of Public Affairs, Frances Reid, is confident this will be an invaluable tool. "The Target Ovarian Cancer Pathfinder Study revealed that many GPs still believe what they were taught at medical school -that ovarian cancer is a 'silent killer' with no symptoms in early stage disease. The evidence base has moved on considerably, and we need to help GPs access more up to date information that can help them improve the accuracy of their referrals. As part of the Study we were able to ask GPs how they kept up to date in developments like this, and online continuing professional development scored very highly."

The module will test user's knowledge prior to working through the case histories, and then assess how much the user has learnt from the module. GPs will also have the opportunity to use an audit tool, comparing their patterns of care before and after the learning intervention.

GPs often seen women in their surgery who suffer from bloating, or difficulty eating, but it is the presence of key symptoms on most days that can help a GP determine when to think of ovarian cancer, instead of much more common conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). For almost a third of women with ovarian cancer who took part in the Target Ovarian Cancer Pathfinder Study, it took over 6 months to get a correct diagnosis of the disease from first visiting their GP, and IBS was the most common diagnosis given to them during this time.