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New NHS data reveals ovarian cancer injustices

A reminder why we fight: latest ovarian cancer data from NHS Digital reveals injustices that disproportionately affect those who die from ovarian cancer.

New data from the ovarian cancer audit feasibility pilot, which we co-fund, reveals the depth of the injustices in ovarian cancer linked to diagnosis, level of deprivation and age that disproportionately affect those who die from ovarian cancer.  

Please note: this news story contains data on ovarian cancer deaths which you may find upsetting. 

The data is part of a report from NHS Digital shedding light on women who die within 12 months of an ovarian cancer diagnosis in England. It's from the ovarian cancer audit feasibility pilot jointly funded by the British Gynaecological Cancer Society, Target Ovarian Cancer and Ovarian Cancer Action. It’s collected by the National Disease Registration Service at NHS Digital. 

Among the findings, we were sad but not shocked to find that one in seven women diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year (13.6 per cent) die in the two months after diagnosis. This reflects the scandal of late diagnosis and lack of treatment options that many of those with ovarian cancer face and is the reason why we all fight for a better future. 

On this, the last day of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we stand together to condemn this scandal in the strongest of terms. We must all act to speed up progress in awareness, diagnosis and care.

Alexandra Holden, Deputy Chief Executive

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Will you act to speed up progress? Sign our open letters today and ask governments to do everything they can to improve early diagnosis this March. 

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All about data 

We need to tackle systemic injustices in diagnosis and treatment in ovarian cancer in England. Today’s report shows that access to data for clinical teams must be prioritised to enable improvements in areas of the country that have especially poor outcomes. 

This new data shows you are more likely to die sooner, depending on: 

  • How far someone's ovarian cancer has spread (stage at diagnosis): women with stage IV disease are 10 times more likely to die within two months than women with stage I disease, after adjustment for other factors. Women for whom stage is unknown are 9.5 times more likely to die within two months, reflecting cases where women have been too ill to even complete the diagnostic process. 
  • Whether someone lives in a more deprived area: those in the most deprived quintile are 50 per cent more likely to die within two months of diagnosis than those in the least deprived. 
  • How someone is diagnosed: those diagnosed via an emergency presentation like A&E are four times more likely to die within two months of diagnosis than those diagnosed via the two-week wait referral system after a visit to the GP. 
  • Whether someone is older when diagnosed: women over 80 are 40 per cent more likely to die within two months than women aged 70–79. 

Professor Sudha Sundar, President of the British Gynaecological Cancer Society, said:

We’ve made a lot of progress but this data shows we need to do more. At the BGCS we’re committed to supporting the NHS to drive the best outcomes for everyone diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It’s clear we have a long way to go and significant issues to tackle.

Cary Wakefield, Chief Executive of Ovarian Cancer Action, said:

This report is unequivocal on the survival lottery that women diagnosed with ovarian cancer face. It isn’t right that anyone’s survival depends on where they live, particularly when the evidence is in plain sight. We can’t keep ignoring this and, working with the NHS, there is much more that can and should be done.

Read the full report


If you’ve been affected by this story and would like to speak to a specialist nurse, you can call our dedicated support line on 020 7923 5475 or contact us: support@targetovariancancer.org.uk. We're open from 9am until 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.