Doctors are urged to carry out blood tests

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Family doctors are being urged to carry out blood tests on women suspected of having ovarian cancer in an effort to improve survival rates for the disease dubbed the ‘silent killer’.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women with around 6,800 women diagnosed with the disease every year in the UK.

But of these women, nearly two thirds, or 65 per cent, will not live beyond five years of their diagnosis.

A blood test costing around £20 is being recommended for use by GPs for detecting whether the disease is likely to be presen.

This is part of new guidelines issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).

The organisation said the test was already available on the NHS but offering it sooner and in primary care could give women a greater chance of survival by speeding up diagnosis and treatment.

Sean Duffy, a consultant gynaecologist at St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, and chairman of the Nice group that drew up the guidelines, urged a greater awareness of the key symptoms of ovarian cancer.

He said these included persistent abdominal bloating, feeling full in spite of only having a small amount to eat, pelvic or abdominal pain and needing to urinate urgently or more frequently.

Nice is recommending that GPs offer women, particularly those over 50 years old, the blood test designed to measure the level of a protein called CA125 in the blood if they experience these symptoms regularly.

‘If the symptoms are persistent, don’t wait, act,’ he urged women.

‘We are promoting the blood test to get women on the right cancer pathway as soon as possible.’