This site is intended for health professionals only

Earlier use of cancer test urged

Health experts have recommended that a blood test that can detect ovarian cancer is used on women suspected of having the disease much earlier than it currently is.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says that the test, which is already on the NHS and costs around £20, should be given to women at risk of ovarian cancer much earlier to improve survival rates for the disease.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the 6,800 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year in the UK, do not live longer than five years after being told they have the disease.

NICE said that if the blood test was introduced sooner it would increase the chances of survival by speeding up the diagnosis and treatment process.

Sean Duffy, a consultant gynaecologist at St James's University Hospital, Leeds, and chairman of the NICE group that drew up the guidelines, urged a greater awareness of the key symptoms of ovarian cancer.

He said these included persistent abdominal bloating, feeling full in spite of only having a small amount to eat, pelvic or abdominal pain and needing to urinate urgently or more frequently.

NICE is recommending that GPs offer women, particularly those over 50 years old, the blood test designed to measure the level of a protein called CA125 in the blood if they experience these symptoms regularly.

"If the symptoms are persistent, don't wait, act," he urged women.

"We are promoting the blood test to get women on the right cancer pathway as soon as possible.

"The symptoms as described can be vague, but if they are persistent they should not be ignored."

The blood test is currently used by hospital specialists for women with suspected ovarian cancer.

Copyright © Press Association 2011


Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Yes, I do agree the test should be used earlier - to improve survival rates. Women also need to be made more aware of the symptoms and should be encouraged to see their GP" - Lynn Maclean, Paxton Green Group Practice