The British Gynaecological Cancer Society, Ovarian Cancer Action and Target Ovarian Cancer, in partnership with the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS) are funding a joint project to map ovarian cancer care, surgery and survival across the NHS for the first time. The ovarian cancer audit feasibility pilot has published its first findings, showing big differences in the number of women diagnosed across England, and significant variation in where the disease is caught early.
Twice as likely to be diagnosed
Women in some parts of the country are twice as likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer than in other areas. This is after age is taken into account – ovarian cancer is more common in women over 50. There are a number of likely reasons behind this, including ethnicity, birth rates and take-up of the contraceptive pill.
Postcode lottery in diagnosis
There is also significant variation in the number of women diagnosed with early stage disease (stage I and II). This is when the disease is most treatable and women’s chances of long term survival are greatest. The government has set a target of 75 per cent of all cancers (where stage is known) to be diagnosed at stage I and II by 2028. At the moment, just 33 per cent of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed with stage I and II disease, 50 per cent with stage III and IV and, worryingly, in some places data was missing for more than one in four women with an ovarian cancer diagnosis.
Comments on the first findings
President of the British Gynaecological Cancer Society, Professor Sudha Sundar, said “Today's report shows significant regional variation in diagnosis and survival for ovarian cancer across England - it also shows that we have significant regional variation in the level of information recorded. If we are to drive forward the transformation in ovarian cancer services that we all want to see, it is vital that we have accurate and reliable data that tells us how different areas are performing.”
Chief Executive of Ovarian Cancer Action, Cary Wakefield, said “Diagnosing ovarian cancer at the earliest stages is crucial, but sadly as we gather data it is clear that a postcode lottery exists around the country, with some areas diagnosing significantly more patients early than others. We want to see all patients diagnosed early enough to get treatment and survive this disease, no matter where they live.”
Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, Annwen Jones, said “Today’s findings show how pressing it is that we act to ensure every woman facing an ovarian cancer diagnosis has the best possible chance of survival. We have consistently called on the government to fund a full ovarian cancer audit, and as the results from this pilot are published, look forward to working with the new government on taking this forward.”
It is hoped the ovarian cancer audit feasibility pilot results in a regular audit of ovarian cancer to drive improvements in clinical practice as well as providing a model that can be rolled out across other cancers. This pilot is currently running in England, the long-term aspiration is to see audits take place across all four UK nations.
For more information on these first findings, please see the full report below and the full release here.