The Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team has welcomed the findings of the report published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that scientists have developed a revolutionary new blood test to enable earlier diagnosis of the disease. Ovarian cancer is one of the more aggressive types of cancer and the fifth most common cancer in women. Any delay in recognising and acting on its signs can have potentially fatal consequences.
Ovarian cancer is diagnosed in more than 7,000 women each year in the UK of whom 4,200 will die of the disease. It is, however, very difficult to detect because many other conditions have similar or overlapping symptoms such as pain in the abdomen and bloating. The concern is that late diagnosis results in poor prognostic statistics.
The new blood test works by identifying raised levels of a particular chemical associated with ovarian cancer. The blood test has been used in a major trial of over 46,000 women and it is hoped that it will lead to a national screening programme. Those women in whom the chemical was detected at elevated levels were referred for further investigations to confirm or exclude the diagnosis.
The trial results reportedly detected the cancer in 86% of cases among those in the trial group. Research continues into the effect of earlier detection on patients' long-term prognosis with the results expected later in 2015.
Welcoming the news, Andrew Clayton of Penningtons Manches' clinical negligence team comments: "The development of an effective screening programme for ovarian cancer would offer peace of mind to many women. We know from advising women who have experienced delays in acting on the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer that there is an association between delayed diagnosis and poor prognosis. And oncology experts often consider earlier diagnosis would have resulted in a better outcome for our clients.
“We often see women’s symptoms ‘brushed off’ because of their age, medical history and/or vague nature of symptoms. There is currently no robust diagnostic pathway in place. Any cost-effective test that can be rolled out as a national screening programme for earlier diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer would be an exciting and welcome development in improving patient outcomes for this deadly disease."