On the Agenda - Delays in ovarian cancer diagnosis

In a nutshell Ovarian cancer is being missed in its early stages because symptoms are being misdiagnosed, according to a report published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Research found the current guidelines are leading to some women waiting six months for a correct diagnosis. A University of Bristol team led the work.

Cancer patients: risk misdiagnosis
Cancer patients: risk misdiagnosis

What's the big deal?

Once thought of as a 'silent killer', ovarian cancer symptoms had previously been difficult to pinpoint. Rates of the disease have fallen by 20 per cent in the past ten years, but many cases are still being missed because doctors remain confused by conflicting guidelines on identifying symptoms. These have been more accurately defined in recent years, but need to be more widely publicised. Early diagnosis boosts survival rates, yet only a third of patients are being correctly diagnosed.

What should be done?

The university team argued that abdominal distension was the most obvious indicator of the disease. This should be investigated at the earliest opportunity and pelvic ultrasonography should be used by primary care.

Media coverage

The story appeared on BBC News and Sky News and in The Times and Daily Mail, which ran the headline 'Most ovarian cancer victims face delays in diagnosis'.

PR support

The story was handled in-house by BMJ Group press officer Emma Dickinson. The story was sent out as part of the BMJ's weekly releases. The university's in-house team also handled reactive media calls.

- 70% of patients recover if the disease is caught early

- 30% of patients are diagnosed in the early stages.

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