GPs to offer ovarian cancer test
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) today issued guidance recommending that GPs offer women a blood test to investigate the possibility of ovarian cancer.
NICE suggests that the cancer antigen 125 (CA125) blood test should be carried out in any women (and especially those over the age of 50 years) who report persistent (12 times per month or more) symptoms of bloating, a feeling of fullness despite not eating much, pelvic or abdominal pain, and increased urinary frequency or urgency to their GP.
The guidance is aimed at identifying ovarian cancer cases rapidly, enabling women to enter the right treatment or investigatory pathway as soon as possible and ultimately saving lives.
Speaking at a press conference, chair of the Guideline Development Group, Mr Sean Duffy (Yorkshire Cancer Network) explained that the vast majority of ovarian cancer cases in the UK are diagnosed at a late stage and that, in theory, many lives could be saved if diagnoses are made earlier.
While Mr Duffy acknowledged that the symptoms highlighted in the guidance are not known to be specifically related to either early- or late-stage disease, his message was: "If symptoms are there, don't wait, act."
Chair of the Royal College of GPs Dr Clare Gerada said: "Crucially, this is not about increasing GPs' workloads, it is about working as effectively as possible with the tools available to us to achieve the best possible outcomes for women."
The guidance authors emphasised that an ultrasound would still be necessary to confirm a cancer diagnosis after a positive CA125 test. However, offering the test immediately on the basis of the above symptoms could prevent patients being misdirected for gastrointestinal investigations.
GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011
By Sarah Guy