Time to diagnosis of Type I or II invasive epithelial ovarian cancers: a multicentre observational study using patient questionnaire and primary care records

BJOG. 2016 May;123(6):1012-20. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.13447. Epub 2015 May 29.


Objective: To compare time to diagnosis of the typically slow-growing Type I (low-grade serous, low-grade endometrioid, mucinous, clear cell) and the more aggressive Type II (high-grade serous, high-grade endometrioid, undifferentiated, carcinosarcoma) invasive epithelial ovarian cancer (iEOC).

Design: Multicentre observational study.

Setting: Ten UK gynaecological oncology centres.

Population: Women diagnosed with primary EOC between 2006 and 2008.

Methods: Symptom data were collected before diagnosis using patient questionnaire and primary-care records. We estimated patient interval (first symptom to presentation) using questionnaire data and diagnostic interval (presentation to diagnosis) using primary-care records. We considered the impact of first symptom, referral and stage on intervals for Type I and Type II iEOC.

Main outcome measures: Patient and diagnostic intervals.

Results: In all, 78% of 60 Type I and 21% of 134 Type II iEOC were early-stage. Intervals were comparable and independent of stage [e.g. median patient interval for Type I: early-stage 0.3 months (interquartile range 0.3-3.0) versus late-stage 0.3 months (interquartile range 0.3-4.5), P = 0.8]. Twenty-seven percent of women with Type I and Type II had diagnostic intervals of at least 9 months. First symptom (questionnaire) was also similar, except for the infrequent abnormal bleeding (Type I 15% versus Type II 4%, P = 0.01). More women with Type I disease (57% versus 41%, P = 0.04) had been referred for suspected gynaecological cancer. Median time from referral to diagnosis was 1.4 months for women with iEOC referred via a 2-week cancer referral to any specialty compared with 2.6 months (interquartile range 2.0-3.7) for women who were referred routinely to gynaecology.

Conclusion: Overall, shorter diagnostic delays were seen when a cancer was suspected, even if the primary tumour site was not recognised to be ovarian. Despite differences in carcinogenesis and stage for Type I and Type II iEOC, time to diagnosis and symptoms were similar. Referral patterns were different, implying subtle symptom differences. If symptom-based interventions are to impact on ovarian cancer survival, it is likely to be through reduced volume rather than stage-shift. Further research on histological subtypes is needed.

Tweetable abstract: No difference in time to diagnosis for Type I versus Type II invasive epithelial ovarian cancers.

Keywords: Delays; Type I and II epithelial ovarian cancer; early diagnosis; ovarian cancer; symptoms.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial
  • Delayed Diagnosis
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / pathology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Symptom Assessment
  • Time Factors