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21-03-2010 | Gynaecology | Article

Older women underinvestigated for suspected ovarian cancer


Journal abstract

MedWire News: Older women with suspected ovarian cancer are investigated with less urgency than their younger counterparts, UK researchers believe.

In findings with potential consequences for survival outcomes, the study showed that women over the age of 55 years were less likely than younger women to be referred for gynecologic investigation, either at all or within 10 weeks of presentation.

The researchers used the General Practice Research Database, which contains data on a representative population sample, to identify women aged 40-80 years diagnosed with ovarian cancer between 2002 and 2007.

Overall, 82 percent of women aged under 55 years received at least one relevant investigation in the year before their diagnosis; this figure fell to 75 percent for women aged 55-69 years and 66 percent for women aged over 70 years.

Clinicians were also slower to refer elderly patients for gynecological investigation. The average delay between presentation with the first symptom and referral was 10 weeks for women aged 45-69 years but 20 weeks for women aged 75-79 years.

“Our research suggests that age plays a role in how quickly diagnosis and referral occurs – the older the patient, the later this appears to happen,” remarked Rosemary Tate (Brighton and Sussex Medical School), the study’s lead author.

“If this is the case, then such delays could be an important cause of avoidable illness and mortality.”

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Joanna Lyford