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GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

GPs overlooking ovarian cancer in older women

By Lilian Anekwe

GPs are less likely to recognise and refer older women who present with symptoms of ovarian cancer, according to a study by UK researchers who warn the findings are likely to extend to other cancers.

A study of patient records held in the General Practice Research Database found that of the 1107 cases of ovarian cancer recorded in the GPRD, 73% were coded as having at least one relevant investigation or referral to a gynaecologist in the year before diagnosis.

But this proportion decreased with age. 82% of women aged below 55 years had at least one investigation, compared with 75% of women aged between 55 and 69 years and 66% of those aged more than 70.

The median delay before a GP requested an investigation had a U-shaped distribution, researchers said, with younger and older patients having longer delays than middle-aged women.

Lead researcher Dr Rosemary Tate, senior research fellow at Brighton and Sussex medical school, concluded: ‘This study not only shows that age has a major effect on how GPs manage women with ovarian cancer, but also shows they are less likely to code a diagnosis and refer patients for gynaecological investigation when they are older.'

British Journal of Cancer, published online March 3

GPs are less likely to identify ovarian cancer in older women

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