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The UK FOCSS study

This page tells you about the UK FOCSS study. There is information on


What the study is about

The aim of this study is to find out whether screening women at high risk of ovarian cancer can pick up the disease at an early stage, when treatment is likely to be more successful. Around 7,100 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the UK every year. We know that women who have 2 or more close relatives with ovarian cancer or breast cancer may have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer themselves. But we don't know yet if screening is helpful.

This study has been looking at screening women who are at high risk because they have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, or have family members with a known gene fault (such as BRCA 1 or BRCA 2). It is no longer possible to join though. The study now has all the women it needs and has closed to recruitment. This doesn't mean the research is over though. The women taking part will continue to have screening. And the researchers will follow their progress for some years yet, to see if the screening can help to pick up ovarian cancer earlier. 


Who is taking part in this study

The women who joined this study have all had one of the cancers listed below, or are a first degree relative of someone diagnosed with one of these cancers. First degree relative means sister, mother or daughter.

The UK FOCSS entry criteria were divided into the following groups

  • Families with a significant family history of ovarian cancer or both ovarian and breast cancer
  • Families with a known genetic fault that increases the risk of ovarian cancer
  • Families with cancers related to HNPCC (Lynch Syndrome)
  • Families with breast cancer
  • Families with an Ashkenazi Jewish background

The study also included families with a history of primary peritoneal cancer or fallopian tube cancer rather than ovarian cancer.

A significant family history included women who had 2 or more close relatives with breast or ovarian cancer, particularly if they were diagnosed at a young age.  The study also specified women with an Ashkenazi Jewish background because this group are known to be more at risk of breast and ovarian cancer.


Results of the study

The UK FOCSS study stopped recruiting women in March 2010. They recruited a total of 3,563 women. In part 1 of the trial, women had an ultrasound scan and CA125 blood test once a year. The researchers found that most of the cancers diagnosed were not early stage. They found that women who had longer than a year between screening tests were more likely to be diagnosed with a more advanced stage. So the researchers felt it may be better to do screening tests more often. The researchers are now following up women who had screening every 4 months. They plan to publish these results in the near future. There is more information about the results of the UK FOCSS study in our trials and research section.

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Updated: 30 January 2014