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Target Ovarian Cancer research found that nearly half of women are waiting three months or more from first approaching their GP to receiving a diagnosis. While it is vital that women know the symptoms so that they visit their GP at the earliest opportunity, it is also vital that GPs then refer women for diagnostic tests promptly.

Guidelines for diagnosing ovarian cancer

Regional variation of the diagnosis of ovarian cancer in England

Regional variation

Our GP Advisory Board report Regional variation in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer looked at variation in diagnosis across England. 

England, Wales and Northern Ireland follow guidelines issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Guidelines on diagnosing ovarian cancer were first published in 2011. They recommend that women with symptoms that could be ovarian cancer are referred firstly for a CA125 blood test. This measures the levels of CA125 protein in your blood. If this test shows over 35 IU/ml GPs should then refer women for an ultrasound.

In Scotland, guidelines are developed by the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. These guidelines recommend that women with symptoms that could be ovarian cancer are referred for a CA125 blood test and an ultrasound simultaneously.

Target Ovarian Cancer has called for women in the rest of the UK to be offered the CA125 blood test and ultrasound simultaneously, like in Scotland, to speed up the time taken to diagnose ovarian cancer.

Multidisciplinary diagnostic services

In England, the latest cancer strategy introduced multidisciplinary diagnostic service pilots. These pilots look at creating an alternative to traditional routes to diagnosis. If a GP is unsure of where to send a patient, they can send them to this service. If successful, this approach should see more cancers diagnosed sooner and fewer people diagnosed through accident and emergency. There are currently pilots taking place in the following areas: Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven, Bristol, Greater Manchester, Leeds, London and Oxfordshire. In 2018 it was announced there would be a further ten sites. There are also two pilot sites in Wales in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University and Cwm Taf Health Boards.

Target Ovarian Cancer has called for these new multidisciplinary diagnostic services to be rolled out across the UK at the earliest opportunity.

New targets

In England, the current cancer strategy includes a new target that from the point of GP referral, 95% of cases of suspected cancer should be diagnosed or ruled out within 28 days. This is now being piloted and is due to be rolled-out by 2020.

Target Ovarian Cancer is campaigning for this new target to be applied to ovarian cancer as soon as possible.

What we are doing

Target Ovarian Cancer has a well-established programme of GP engagement and training. We offer accredited GP training, run stalls and sessions at GP conferences on how to spot and diagnose ovarian cancer and work with our GP Advisory Board to develop new ways of supporting GPs to diagnose ovarian cancer.

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