Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women.
Worryingly, a recent study by the Department of Health, found that the United Kingdom had the worst survival rates when 20,000 patients with ovarian cancer were compared with five similar countries.
The study compared survival rates in patients with late stage ovarian cancer in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United Kingdom. In the UK only 69% of women survived for more than a year after diagnosis, compared with 72% in Denmark and 74-75% in the other three countries.
Women aged over 70, who are diagnosed with advanced cancer, have a 35% chance of surviving longer than a year in the UK, compared with 45% in Canada. The UK was also the worst at recording how far tumours had spread. Cancer Research UK have labelled these results as “disturbing”.
Whilst the differences in percentage terms may seem minor, translated into actual figures, it has been suggested that around 500 ovarian cancer deaths a year could be avoided in Britain if the country had survival records that matched the rest of Europe.
So why are we lagging behind other countries? Experts who have analysed the data have found that the poor survival rates are not due to women delaying going to their GPs with their symptoms. In fact, the issue seems to be with the care that some women receive, and particularly, about the standard of the surgery rather than the drugs.
The Department of Health have advised that they are working to bring England’s survival rates up to the level of the best by investing in earlier diagnosis and ensuring that people get the best possible treatment. NICE guidance has recently been published to help professionals recognise ovarian cancer.