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Scotland has a strong track record in driving forward improvements in the diagnosis and treatment for the 570 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Scotland every year.

However, survival rates for ovarian cancer trail those for other cancers, including breast, bowel and womb, and over 350 women die of the disease in Scotland every year.

It is clear more needs to be done and therefore a critical time to be publishing the first Pathfinder Scotland, looking at women’s awareness of ovarian cancer, their experience of diagnosis and treatment and GP knowledge.

Pathfinder Scotland is based on three different surveys:

  • Women in the general population
  • Women with ovarian cancer
  • Practising GPs

The report is structured around the patient pathway. It begins with awareness and diagnosis, before moving on to treatment and support. It also has sections looking at genetics, clinical trials and mental wellbeing and body image to present a more complete picture. While the number of women with ovarian cancer taking part in the survey may be low, their responses and experiences paint a picture of the current state of cancer services in Scotland.

Pathfinder Scotland

While recognising the work that has been done already to improve the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer, Pathfinder Scotland sets out what needs to happen next to transform outcomes for women living with ovarian cancer in Scotland today, and those diagnosed tomorrow.

The top three actions identified by Pathfinder Scotland are:

  • A Detect Cancer Early awareness campaign that includes the symptoms of ovarian cancer so women know the symptoms to look out for and the importance of going to the GP.
  • A review of the implementation of SIGN ‘Management of epithelial ovarian cancer: a national clinical guideline (135)’ to ensure this has been rolled out fully and to evaluate its impact.
  • NHS Scotland to ensure all women with ovarian cancer are aware of where to go for support, including counselling.

Key findings from Pathfinder Scotland

Symptoms awareness

Scotland leads the way in ovarian cancer diagnosis and care in the UK, having improved its diagnostic pathway and access to much-needed treatments. But awareness of the symptoms among GPs and women is still low with just 17 per cent of women being able to name bloating as a symptom of ovarian cancerin addition to this 31 per cent of women in Scotland incorrectly believe that cervical screening also detects ovarian cancer.

17% of women are able to name bloating as a symptom of ovarian cancer31% of women incorrectly believe cervical screening also detects ovarian cancer


36% of women visit their GP three times or more before being referred for diagnostic testsJust 32 per cent of women with ovarian cancer in Scotland are diagnosed with Stage I disease (where survival is highest).

36 per cent of women subsequently diagnosed with ovarian cancer visited their GP three times or more before being referred for diagnostic tests and 61 per cent of women were initially referred for tests for something other than ovarian cancer.