A simple blood test that could help in the early diagnosis of ovarian cancer saving thousands of life should be used by doctors, state new guidelines.
The test that identified the CA-125 cancer protein in the bloodstream was in use only in hospitals, but that proved to be too late for most cancer patients. Hence, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has issued guidelines that require GPs to use the test for an early diagnosis to ensure higher survival rates.
Early administration of the test is important as the symptoms of the cancer are often mistaken for those of irritable bowel syndrome. Persistent abdominal pain or bloating, a feeling of fullness when eating, or the need to use the toilet frequently are symptoms that need to be tested.
Out of the 6,800 women a year diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the UK only a third survives for five years. "In England and Wales we have relatively poor survival rates compared to other European countries. Part of that may be due to the treatment patients receive, but we think the greater part of it is because patients are diagnosed at a later stage of the disease," states cancer specialist and co-author of the guidelines, Sean Duffy. The survival rate could improve by 90 per cent with just this simple test.
Linda Facey, a cancer survivor who had helped in framing the guidelines says that women should not ignore their symptoms although there is no need to immediately fear the existence of the cancer. The blood test would help in a sure diagnosis.
The ovarian cancer support charity Ovacome has also launched an online symptom checker to help women understand and communicated their symptoms to their doctors accurately. The checker is available at www.ovacome.org.uk