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04-01-2012 | General practice | Article

Ovarian cancer risk tool for GPs


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MedWire News: University of Nottingham researchers have developed a simple risk tool that they say will help GPs to identify women at high risk of ovarian cancer and so improve early diagnosis of the disease.

The tool includes clinical variables that are routinely recorded in a patient's electronic health record or likely to be known by the patient.

The nine variables are age, family history of ovarian cancer, anaemia, abdominal pain, abdominal distension, rectal bleeding, postmenopausal bleeding, appetite loss and weight loss. Researchers Julia Hippisley-Cox and Carol Coupland report in the BMJ that the tool performed well, with 63% of all newly diagnosed cancers over 2 years occurring among the 10% of women at highest predicted risk.

They have made the tool available as a web-based calculator (click here) and say a simpler version could be put on the internet for the public, in order to raise awareness of risk factors and symptoms.

Hippisley-Cox commented: "Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to spot and we hope that this new tool will help GPs identify patients most at risk of having ovarian cancer for early referral and investigations."

The researchers say their study "lends some support" to recently published NICE guidance, which recommends women with symptoms suggestive of ovarian cancer undergo a blood test for CA 125, and further investigations if levels are elevated.

But they point out that the NICE approach has not been validated and caution that some of the symptoms it includes differ from those found significant in their own analysis.

Furthermore, they note that their risk calculator takes better account of age than the NICE guidance, which is important because of the increasing risk of ovarian cancer at older age.

MedWire News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Caroline Price