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 3GPs are less likely to identify ovarian cancer in older women