Misdiagnosis of ovarian cancer

John Bennett
John Bennett

Published: March 1st, 2022

7 min read

The Times Newspaper has recently reported that there is a serious lack of awareness around the warning signs of ovarian cancer and the symptoms are often mistaken for common conditions such as cystitis or IBS, by both individuals suffering and the doctors investigating.

Target Ovarian Cancer

Target Ovarian Cancer is the UK's leading ovarian cancer charity. Research has shown that:

  • 79% women don't know that bloating is one of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
  • 68% are unaware that abdominal pain could be a sign.
  • 40% believe that cervical screening detects ovarian cancer, which is incorrect.
  • There are approximately 7,500 new ovarian cancer cases in Britain per year.

Almost 50% doctors believe symptoms appear in the late stages of ovarian cancer, which is also incorrect, according to a survey by Target Ovarian Cancer.

Target Ovarian Cancer is encouraging people to sign open letters to governments across Britain calling for dedicated awareness campaigns for healthcare professionals and the public. It is important that women are aware of the symptoms to avoid ovarian cancer being overlooked and only diagnosed at a late stage when treatment is less effective.

Case Example - Sarah Sanyahumbi

Sarah (ages 54) suffered from abdominal pain and fatigue but when repeatedly seeing her GP she was sent away stating that these symptoms were probably due to the menopause or cystitis. There were no further investigations carried out by the doctors and no referrals made. Sarah stated she knew something was wrong with her abdominal pain, but on visiting her GP on many occasions, the possibility of ovarian cancer was never raised.

Sarah admitted that she was unaware of the signs of ovarian cancer. In 2019 a particular painful event prompted her to go to A&E with the abdominal pain. An urgent blood test result was carried out and she was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.

Sarah has since had two rounds of chemotherapy, surgery and is on maintenance drug treatment. She has questioned why the blood tests weren't carried out when she first went to her GP with these symptoms. The visits to her GP complaining about this pain were ongoing for approximately 6 months, yet no further steps were taken.

This case highlights the importance of women being aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer in order to take the right steps to investigate this. It also demonstrates the lack of investigation and thoroughness from GPs to ascertain whether there are serious complications and further referrals/investigations that need to take place.

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