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NICE urges greater use of blood test to detect ovarian cancer

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Deaths from ovarian cancer could be cut under new guidelines that urge more blood tests to be carried out on women suspected of having the disease.

Around 6,800 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year in the UK, but the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) hopes that if doctors check women sooner and more often with a £20 blood test it will help increase survival rates.

Of those who are diagnosed with the cancer - the fifth most common in women - 65% will not be alive within five years, statistics show.

Family doctors are being urged to carry out the blood test - which measures the level of a protein called CA125 in the blood - if a patient has symptoms such as persistent abdominal bloating, feeling full in spite of only having a small amount to eat, pelvic or abdominal pain or needing to urinate urgently or more frequently.

Sean Duffy, a consultant gynaecologist at St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, and chairman of the NICE group that drew up the guidelines, said: “If the symptoms are persistent, don’t wait, act.”

He added: “We are promoting the blood test to get women on the right cancer pathway as soon as possible. The symptoms as described can be vague, but if they are persistent they should not be ignored.”

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