GPs should offer every woman a simple blood test
NHS advisers want to see greater use of a blood test that measures a key protein, to improve early diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer.
Our local LINk – contrary to what La La Lansley says – is very active. At our last meeting we had a very helpful talk from a rep. from Ovarian Cancer charity, and she stressed that we should ask our GP for a test for CA125.
The test costs about £20 to the NHS, so there shouldn’t be any problem in funding this.
I was due to see the vampires for routine blood tests, so asked my GP to add this one to the list – only to find that in my practice this is done regularly for all women patients who might be at risk.
How to identify Ovarian Cancer
Often called ‘The Silent Killer’, almost 7,000 UK women a year are diagnosed with the disease, but only about a third are still alive five years on.
Key symptoms are bloating, lower abdominal pain, feeling full after eating only a small amount, and needing to urinate with increased frequency.
A member of the guideline group, Sean Duffy, from the Yorkshire Cancer Network, said: “The symptoms can be vague, but shouldn’t be ignored if they are persistent. By persistent, we mean them occurring more than 12 times a month”.
The blood test detects cancer only about half of the time – but experts believe using it more often, as well as ultrasound scans where necessary, and encouraging women to be more aware of the symptoms, will improve the UK’s “disappointing” survival rate for ovarian cancer.
A consultant gynaecological oncologist, Mr Charles Redman, said: “This strategy won’t be the perfect answer, but we think it will make a measurable difference. ….. But the current situation is very poor. Other countries do better than us.”
One Ovarian cancer patient, Mrs Facey, from Gosport in Hampshire, said: “My waistline was persistently bigger – even within a week. I thought it was just changes to my body as I got older.
Sometimes doctors tell women they have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – but NICE has already produced guidelines to say this is unusual as a new diagnosis in women over 50.”
Ovarian Cancer Action says:
The three key symptoms are:
- Persistent pelvic and abdominal pain
- Increased abdominal size / persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
- Difficulty eating and feeling full quickly
Other symptoms such as urinary symptoms, changes in bowel habit, extreme fatigue or back pain may also be experienced on their own, or at the same time as those listed above.
In most cases it is unlikely that these symptoms are ovarian cancer, but they may be present in some women with the disease.
But if you feel bloated, or have any other of the symptoms underlined above, it makes sense to get the CA125 test done. If only to put your mind at rest.