Ovarian Cancer: 'Diagnosis Delays Costing Lives'

Thomas Moore, Health and Science Correspondent

Women with ovarian cancer are having their lives cut short by delays to their diagnosis, a new report has warned.

The Pathfinder Study by Target Ovarian Cancer found that women take too long to see their GP about suspicious symptoms, doctors fail to make a swift diagnosis, and GPs are having access to tests denied.

Annwen Jones, the charity's chief executive, told Sky News: "We have the worst survival rates for ovarian cancer in Europe.

"This is driven primarily by late diagnosis. And we know from the government's own figures that 500 lives could be saved every year if we matched the best survival rates in Europe."

The study showed that one in four women diagnosed with ovarian cancer took more than three months to visit their GP after experiencing symptoms such as frequent and persistent bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, and difficulty eating.

A third of women then wait a further six months for an accurate diagnosis, often being told they have irritable bowel syndrome, ovarian cysts or a urinary infection.

And one in 10 GPs said they had had requests for diagnostic tests turned down.

Diane Ennis was referred to hospital several times over three months, each time being misdiagnosed and given treatment that did nothing to stop the pain in her abdomen and groin.

Only when she was sent to a different hospital was her cancer diagnosed.

"I still feel upset and angry at the long distressing delay in being diagnosed.

"I won't know if catching it earlier would have made any difference but all that time it was growing and spreading."

The Department of Health last week launched a Be Clear on Cancer campaign to raise public awareness of symptoms that should be checked out by a GP.

A spokesman said: "Early diagnosis is at the core of our £750m cancer strategy and plays a vital role in our aim to improve cancer survival rates and save an extra save an extra 5,000 lives every year by 2014."

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