Delays in diagnosis are common in ovarian cancer and can leave many women reaching hospital cancer specialists when it is too late, the charity Target Ovarian Cancer warned in December 2018.
The consequences of late diagnosis
Such delays include women not recognising the symptoms, gaps in GP knowledge and delays in getting the right diagnostic tests.
It can mean patients who finally receive their diagnosis are too unwell to withstand the invasive surgery and chemotherapy needed to treat ovarian cancer.
The charity said this is putting women at risk of being denied a choice in their treatment, and leaving many facing no other option than palliative or end-of-life care.
The new statistics aim to make more data on less common cancers publicly available, as part of the Get Data Out project. Target Ovarian Cancer worked with Public Health England’s National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS), which provided figures for analysis.
A personal story
Emma Richman, 47, from Dorset, lost her mother Linda, 64, to ovarian cancer just six weeks after she was diagnosed, and before any significant treatment could be given.
She said: “I remember vividly the hospital appointment where my mum Linda was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “The consultant said that it wasn’t good news, and that my mum had stage four ovarian cancer, incurable.
“I was so upset. My mum was really brave and kept asking questions. I stayed positive around Mum but at night I cried, worrying if it was too late.
Devastatingly Mum passed away six weeks after this appointment, with her family by her side. She had just celebrated her 64th birthday.”
What to look for
While the symptoms of ovarian cancer can be difficult to recognise, particularly early on, the most common symptoms include feeling constantly bloated, feeling full quickly when eating and needing to urinate more often.
Andy Nordin, president of the British Gynaecological Cancer Society and consultant gynaecological oncologist at East Kent Gynaecological Centre, said: “We have been aware for over 20 years that survival from ovarian cancer in the UK is poor in comparison with many developed countries.We must all work together to diagnose this disease earlier.”
Chief executive of Target Ovarian Cancer Annwen Jones said the new statistics is “heartbreaking news for women and their families who have battled for a diagnosis and may have faced delays along the way.”
She continued: “To finally meet a surgeon or consultant only to discover that it’s too late for treatment is devastating, and a tragic and needless waste of a person’s life.
“We must all redouble our efforts in this area. The Government’s long-term plan for the NHS must include plans to eliminate delays and improve early diagnosis in ovarian cancer.”
Hormone balance and oestrogen dominance, excess oestrogen, is linked to many forms of hormonal cancers so tackling that is a good first step as are maintaining a healthy weight and implementing regular exercise.
Target Ovarian Cancer is the UK’s leading ovarian cancer charity who work to improve early diagnosis, fund life-saving research and provide much-needed support to women with ovarian cancer. More help and information on their website: