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GP study on ovarian cancer symptoms wins top award

By Gareth Iacobucci

A GP-led study identifying the early symptoms of ovarian cancer has been awarded the RCGP Research paper of the Year for 2009-2010.

The paper from the University of Bristol, led by Dr Willie Hamilton, and published in the BMJ in 2009, identified that GPs should suspect ovarian cancer in all women presenting with abdominal distension.

The influential study, which has since been used by the Department of Health and cancer charities to raise awareness of the condition, identified seven symptoms in total to help GPs and Practice Nurses with early diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

These were:

• Abdominal distension

• Postmenopausal bleeding

• Loss of appetite

• Increased urinary frequency

• Abdominal pain

• Rectal bleeding

• Abdominal bloating

Professor Sir Mike Richards, national clinical director for Cancer, said: ‘Dr Willie Hamilton's research highlights the fact that ovarian cancer is not a 'silent' cancer, but can give rise to a wide range of symptoms.

‘This research has helped the Department of Health and several cancer charities to raise awareness of the symptoms and will hopefully be useful to GPs.'

Dr Willie Hamilton said: ‘We cannot afford to be complacent about a cancer with nearly 7,000 new cases a year and such a dismal prognosis. Women often have subtle symptoms. Ovarian cancer is not silent: it is noisy - even if the noise is rather indistinct.

‘Ovarian cancer will not always spring to a GP's mind with the subtle symptoms listed. Understandably, some cancers are missed. If our research helps even one woman to have her diagnosis expedited, then we will be delighted.'

Dr Willie Hamilton

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