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Study finds delay in referrals for older women with ovarian cancer
Date:3/2/2010

A study of electronic patient records, funded by the Wellcome Trust, suggests that older women with suspected ovarian cancer may be referred by their GPs for investigation later than younger women.

Researchers at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School studied records from the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) and compared recorded diagnoses of ovarian cancer against rates in the UK cancer registries to see whether there was a difference in how older patients are managed by their GP. The results are published today in the British Journal of Cancer.

The researchers found that during the period 2002-06, GPs were less likely to refer patients for gynaecological investigation when they were older. 82% of women under the age of fifty-five years had received at least one relevant investigation in the year before their diagnosis; this figure fell to 75% for women aged between fifty-five and sixty-nine years, and 66% for women aged over seventy years.

GPs were also found to be slower to refer elderly patients than their middle-aged counterparts. Women aged between forty-five and sixty-nine years tended to be referred for gynaecological investigation within ten weeks of presenting to their GP with their first symptom. This figure steadily increases, peaking at twenty weeks for women aged seventy-five to seventy-nine years.

"Ovarian cancer is a relatively rare disease but, as with all cancers, early diagnosis is important for improving the chances of successful treatment," says Dr Rosemary Tate, lead author of the study. "Our research suggests that age plays a role in how quickly diagnosis and referral occurs the older the patient, the later this appears to happen.

"As we only looked at one type of cancer, we don't know if our results will generalise to other cancers. However, if this is the case, then such delays could be an important cause of avoidable illness and mortality, and could contribute to the lower
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Contact: Craig Brierley
c.brierley@wellcome.ac.uk
44-207-611-7329
Wellcome Trust
Source:Eurekalert

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