A concerned GP comforts a woman with ovarian cancer in the GP's office

New data shows ovarian cancer often spotted too late for treatment

Target Ovarian Cancer has found that as many as one in every five women (20 per cent) in England is too ill to treat by the time they receive their ovarian cancer diagnosis, according to data released this week.

Just weeks of living with the disease undiagnosed can make the difference in determining whether a woman is well enough to be able to undergo treatment. As a result, delays in diagnosis, which are common in ovarian cancer, can leave too many women reaching hospital cancer specialists when it’s too late.

Delays, which can include women not knowing the symptoms and therefore when to go to the GP, gaps in GP knowledge, and delays in getting the right diagnostic tests, can mean women are too ill by the time they receive their diagnosis to be able to withstand the invasive surgery and chemotherapy needed to treat ovarian cancer. At the moment these delays risk denying women a choice in their treatment and leaving many facing no option other than palliative or end of life care.

Mr Andy Nordin, President of the British Gynaecological Cancer Society and Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist at the 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. Too many women do not know they have ovarian cancer until they are admitted to hospital extremely unwell, and by this time many are not well enough to cope with our treatments.  We must all work together to diagnose this disease earlier.

Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said:

This is heartbreaking news for women and their families who have battled for a diagnosis and may have faced delays along the way. 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.

This new data is part of the ‘Get Data Out’ project aimed at making more data on less common cancers, such as ovarian cancer, publicly available. Target Ovarian Cancer worked with Public Health England’s National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service who provided the data for analysis. You can read the report here: Data briefing on ovarian cancer December 2018