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Ovarian cancer diagnosed

First Australian study into diagnosis of ovarian cancer

For the first time the diagnostic experience of Australian woman with ovarian cancer, from their first trip to a doctor to diagnosis, has been studied.

Researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), The National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre and The University of Queensland, interviewed almost 1,500 women as part of the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study.

According to Dr Penny Webb, Head of QIMR’s Gynaecological Cancer Group, “The study found that 66% of ovarian cancers were diagnosed within one month and 80% were diagnosed within three months. 85% of women reported visiting three or fewer doctors before their cancer was diagnosed.”

“Of the women we interviewed, 93% presented first to their general practitioner. Overall, 6% were given a diagnosis, and 37% were referred to a gynaecologist, gynaecological oncologist or oncologist as a result of their first medical consultation.”

“However, for 12% of women, the diagnostic process took longer than 6 months. This was more likely for women living in remote Australia, those with lower incomes, and those presenting with abdominal pain or bowel symptoms, or multiple symptoms.”

Dr Susan Jordan, lead author on the study said that “Further studies addressing these factors, especially lack of access to care, are warranted.”

“Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage when the tumour has already spread to other organs. Our aim was to describe the diagnostic pathway experienced by a large representative group of Australian women with ovarian cancer and to document the time between their first presentation to clinical diagnosis.

“We hope the Australian information we have obtained will be useful for our local clinicians and policy makers.”

The research was published in Medical Journal of Australia and is available online.