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Referral to a specialist

Find out when GPs refer people to see an ovarian cancer specialist.

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist within 2 weeks if you have symptoms that could be due to ovarian cancer. This is called an urgent referral.

UK referral guidelines

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) produce guidelines for GPs in the UK. The guidelines help them decide who needs an urgent referral.

What your GP should do

The GP should arrange CA125 and/or ultrasound tests in women (especially those aged 50 or over) with any of the following persistent symptoms (more than 12 times a month):

  • tummy (abdominal) or pelvic pain
  • long lasting swelling or bloating of your tummy
  • passing urine more often than usual (frequency) or more suddenly than usual (urgency)
  • loss of appetite or feeling full

Your GP may also offer you tests if you:

  • are feeling tired all the time
  • have lost weight for no obvious reason
  • have changes in bowel habit (for example constipation or diarrhoea)

If the scan result shows any signs that you may have ovarian cancer, you should see a specialist within 2 weeks. 

If your GP does not think that you have ovarian cancer, they will not refer you to a specialist but will ask you to go back to them again if your symptoms continue or happen more often.

Urgent referral to a specialist

According to NICE guidelines, your GP should refer you urgently (within 2 weeks) to see a specialist if:

  • you have a lump in your abdomen or pelvis, that is not fibroids
  • you have a build up of fluid (ascites) in your abdomen
  • your ultrasound scan shows a lump or abnormal area that could be ovarian cancer

If you are still worried

If you are concerned that your GP is not taking your symptoms as seriously as you think they should, you could print this page and take it along to an appointment. Ask your GP to talk it through with you and then you may be able to decide together whether you need to see a specialist and if so, how soon.

If you've been to the GP before with your symptoms, and they have not improved or are happening more often, you could ask your GP for the CA125 blood test or to refer you for an ultrasound scan. 

The CA125 blood test is a general test and can't diagnose ovarian cancer on its own. But it can help to show that something may be wrong.

If you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer then your GP may be able to refer you to a family cancer clinic so that you can have your family history properly assessed. You may then be able to have screening for ovarian cancer.

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.