GPs are urged to complete the latest version of Target Ovarian Cancer's award-winning[i] free CPD tool, which has just been updated to include the latest NICE guidance[ii] on new symptoms and best practice for diagnosing ovarian cancer.

The online tool, produced and recently updated by BMJ Learning, is a step-by-step professional guide which tests existing knowledge and helps GPs detect ovarian cancer earlier in more women. New features include audio from a woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer describing her experience of diagnosis.

"It's a challenging disease to diagnose for GPs - but this will help them understand how to distinguish between ovarian cancer and other less serious conditions and what first steps to take. We hope it will mean many more women get a quick diagnosis.

"The earlier that ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the better a woman's chances of survival. The UK presently has one of the poorest survival rates compared to other developed countries[iii]. This has been linked to late diagnosis," said Frances Reid, director of public affairs, Target Ovarian Cancer.

Target Ovarian Cancer says official figures show the swift diagnosis of the fourth most common cancer killer of women could help save up to 500 lives per year[iv] in the UK.

The online tool was originally launched a year ago, since then more than 3,000 GPs have completed the tool. Last autumn the tool was highly commended in an Excellence in Oncology Award in part due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback.

NICE issued its first clinical guidance on ovarian cancer in April. It states, for the first time, that urinary symptoms can be an indicator of the disease. This is in addition to the recognised symptoms of persistent bloating, early satiety and pelvic pain.

It also says that ovarian cancer symptoms are likely to occur more than 12 times per month and be new to the patient within the last 12 months.

The guidance states GPs should always test a woman, if she is over 50, for ovarian cancer if she presents with symptoms that might suggest Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Target Ovarian Cancer's research showed that IBS was the most common misdiagnosis given to women who were later found to have ovarian cancer.

The guidance is the first to be produced in the disease area by NICE, which Target Ovarian Cancer regards as an important step forward to ensuring improvements in detection and survivorship.

Professor Willie Hamilton, a GP and a professor of primary care diagnostics at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, presents the module and gives his top tips.

[i] The module was highly commended by the 2010 Excellence in Oncology Awards in the 'best professional education initiative category'. The judges recognised it showed great potential to influence the diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

[ii] CG122 'Ovarian Cancer: the recognition and initial management of ovarian cancer' National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, April 2011.

[iii] Coleman M, Foreman D, Bryant H, et al; Cancer survival in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the UK, 1995-2007 (the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership) : an analysis of population-based cancer registry data. The Lancet 2011; 377(9760): 127-138

[iv] Eurocare-4. Survival of cancer patients diagnosed in 1995-1999. Results and commentary. Sant M, Allemani C, Santaquilani M, Knijn A, Marchesi F, Capocaccia R, the EUROCARE Working Group. European Journal of Cancer 2009, 45:931-991

NICE guidance, April 2011, gives the following symptom information.


-- Frequent - more than 12 times a month

-- Persistent

-- New - they are not normal for the woman and may have started in the last year

- Persistent pelvic or abdominal pain
- Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms

-- Occasionally there are other symptoms:

- Changes in bowel habit
- Extreme fatigue (feeling very tired)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Back pain

Target Ovarian Cancer