Calculating Who's at Risk For Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer detected with online tool

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It's one of the most elusive cancers and also one of the worst. Ovarian cancer has few distinct symptoms and virtually no early detection screening tests. A new program could help family practice physicians help pinpoint women most at risk.

An easy-to-use online tool is now available in the United Kingdom that's designed to help general practitioners (GPs) identify women at the highest risk of developing ovarian cancer. It's been shown to be highly accurate.

"Know the risks of ovarian cancer summarized below."

Researchers from The University of Nottingham in England have teamed with ClinRisk Ltd. to produce a new QCancer algorithm for matching patient symptoms and risk factors for ovarian cancer.

"Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to spot and we hope that this new tool will help GPs identify patients most at risk of having ovarian cancer for early referral and investigations," said Lead researcher, Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox.

A study of the algorithm's effectiveness was published online in early January, 2012 at, the site of the British Medical Journal.

Researchers analyzed anonymous data from 564 GPs surgeries using the QResearch database. QResearch is a nonprofit  partnership between The University of Nottingham and a leading supplier of GP computer systems, EMIS.

Investigators looked at information compiled about women patients between the ages of 30 and 84. None of them had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, nor did they have any of the "red flag" symptoms over the previous year.

Ovarian risk factors include the following:

  • age
  • family history
  • diagnosis of other cancers
  • loss of appetite and unintended weight loss
  • abdominal pain and distension (uncomfortable swelling)
  • bleeding from the rectum
  • postmenopausal bleeding
  • anemia

Researchers assessed these risk factors to forecast which patients were at highest risk of ovarian cancer. They then combined these in the risk prediction algorithm.

The tool successfully predicted 63 percent of all ovarian cancers that were diagnosed over the following two years in the top 10 percent of women determined to have the greatest disease risks.

The goal of the calculator is to save lives. Most women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer after it's reached an advanced stage. It's known that women who find it early have a much better chance of beating the disease.

QResearch has already developed other online tools which have proven to be effective in identifying patients at high risk of lung cancer, stomach and esophageal cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, fractures, kidney disease and serious blood clots.

This online tool is available for doctors at

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 12, 2012
Last Updated:
January 13, 2012