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Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer remains a major challenge for those who care for women with gynaecological cancer. In the UK approximately 7000 women develop this disease each year. Unfortunately for many of these women the disease has spread beyond the ovaries at the time of diagnosis. In these circumstances it may be difficult to cure the disease.

Work continues to improve the treatments we can offer and there has been a significant improvement in survival rates in the UK over the last decade. Death rates from ovarian cancer fell by about 1/5 between 2001 and 2011. However there is much more to be done and the outcomes for women with ovarian cancer in the UK are poorer than that seen in many comparable countries.

It is recognised that the symptoms that many women experience with ovarian cancer may be common and non–specific. Effort is therefore being directed at women and their primary care doctors to improve the early presentation and appropriate investigation of these symptoms. Women who experience tummy pain, bloating or a sense of feeling full that won't go away, which happens on most days, should pop along to their doctor.

There has also been much effort directed at developing screening tests that may help detect the disease at an even earlier stage before symptoms develop. Theses screening tests have been investigated in two large national studies of ovarian screening. We are proud that Liverpool Women's Hospital has been one of the main contributors to these studies. Both studies have now closed but early results from both are encouraging and we eagerly await the full results of the trials, which should be available in the near future.

When a diagnosis of ovarian cancer is made then most women will be offered a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. New chemotherapy agents and new ways of giving those agents are being developed on a regular basis and many of our patients in Liverpool will be offered entry into clinical trials that explore new treatments that may offer improved results. The Gynaecological Oncology team have regularly been one of the top centres in the UK in terms of recruitment into these studies which demonstrates a commitment to delivering enhanced care to our patients now and in the future.

Our current areas of research include new chemotherapy drugs; a new way of giving chemotherapy drugs directly into the abdomen after surgery and a trial looking at further surgery in women who experience a return of their disease following initial treatment. We will also be exploring whether ultra-radical surgery as has been championed in the United States may offer a potential benefit to our patients.

Progress is never as rapid as we would all like but there are encouraging signs that if we continue to attack this disease from these many different angles the improvements we have seen in the treatment of this disease in the last decade will continue.

Go to Target Ovarian Cancer and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month websites to find out more.

07 March 2013