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Breaking down barriers to early diagnosis

We’re ending the postcode lottery in early diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

Target Ovarian Cancer has been at the forefront of early diagnosis in ovarian cancer for over 10 years, and our groundbreaking project to end the postcode lottery is in full swing. Today we launch the next phase: working directly with primary care (people working in Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), GPs and GP practices) in England. 

It’s in their hands 

GPs and GP practices in the community see people with ovarian cancer symptoms every day. Early diagnosis is in their hands. We’ll work directly with health professionals and CCGs in England to develop and test more ways to improve early diagnosis. In the best-performing areas of the country, over 60 per cent of ovarian cancer is diagnosed early. We want to make sure that it’s excellent, everywhere.  

The things we know  

We’ve already spoken to primary care professionals who are focused on cancer to get the ball rolling. From that we have some areas we know we want to focus on in our collaboration with primary care: 

  • Developing best practice for safety netting symptoms
    Some GPs have digital “safety netting” built into their systems so that people who come to them with ovarian cancer symptoms are followed up until the disease can be diagnosed or ruled out. No one should slip through the gaps and we want to explore the role of these systems to support primary care.
  • Picking up on the symptoms of ovarian cancer
    Supporting GPs to send people for the right tests as soon as they see symptoms such as bloating and tummy pain, which can mimic other, less serious problems like IBS or a bladder infection. This is especially important for people who might have more complex health issues, who are older, or who have other long-term health conditions who may present differently.
  • Pathways to diagnosis
    There are a few different pathways to getting an ovarian cancer diagnosis. We want to explore the benefits of new Rapid Diagnostic Centres, and we’ll support primary care to understand the role of these pathways. These centres are places where people with non-specific symptoms can get access to a number of different tests to diagnose or rule out cancer. 
  • Supporting GPs to use local ovarian cancer data to drive improvement
    We’ll be supporting primary care to examine their data in greater detail. This could be data on emergency presentations of ovarian cancer, the number of people who visit their GP with non-specific symptoms, how long it takes them to get a diagnosis or how long they wait for tests. Data can be a powerful tool to help us see barriers to diagnosis and make improvements.

In a changing NHS landscape, and one future-focused on better integrated partnerships between systems and a reduction in health inequalities, shining a spotlight on the regional variation in diagnosis of ovarian cancer is more important than ever.

– Sean Duffy, Project Chair, Programme Clinical Director and Alliance Lead – West Yorkshire & Harrogate Cancer Alliance, Strategic Clinical Lead/Programme Director – Leeds Cancer Programme

What’s next? 

We'll be working with GPs and CCGs across England to develop and test interventions aimed at ending the postcode lottery in early diagnosis.  

This project is possible thanks to transformational funding from the Peter Sowerby Foundation.