Ovarian cancer diagnosed following NICE recommendation for CA125 testing
In April 2011 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended that General Practitioners (GPs) should offer a blood test for CA125 to women with non-specific symptoms suggestive of ovarian cancer (for more details see the news article published on 11 May 2011). Briefly, the test should be offered to women who have persistent or recurrent symptoms of abdominal bloating, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, altered bowel frequency or stool form, or the need to pass urine frequently or urgently. If the CA125 is raised to a level that suggests ovarian cancer, the GP should arrange for an ultrasound examination of the abdomen and pelvis. Doctors from Airedale General Hospital, West Yorkshire, which provides diagnostic services for gynaecological cancer for about 200,000 women, examined the effects of the NICE guidance on testing and diagnosis. They reported to the European Cancer Congress held in Amsterdam from 27 September – 1 October 2013 that the number of requests from GPs for CA125 tests increased from 486 in the six months before the NICE guidance to 1,314 in the following six months, a nearly three-fold increase. During the year after the guidance 118 women had raised CA125 values. Eight were not followed up by their GPs. Of the remaining 110 women, further investigation found ovarian cancer in 12 (11%) and other cancers in 10 (9%). The most common cause of raised values in the remaining 88 was a benign gynaecological condition, but some remained unexplained. The lead researcher, Dr Michael Crawford, told the GP magazine Pulse that the patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer had quite high CA125 results and quite advanced disease. He said: ‘I think for this process therefore to have a significant impact on the timeliness of diagnosis it is going to require GPs to do a lot more CA125 testing than they are doing and thinking about it even more’.