International treatment differences in ovarian cancer, particularly in the advanced stages, could explain why in the UK survival is lagging behind that seen in comparable countries, new research indicates.

Looking at the records of more than 20,000 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer to gage one-year survival rates, researchers found that in the UK, 69% were alive after a year, compared to 72% in Denmark and 74%-75% in Australia, Canada and Norway.

It was found that survival in the UK was lower among those diagnosed at a late stage and in those whose disease had not been recorded. 

And the difference for advanced cancer was greatest for women diagnosed at age 70 years or older, with just 35% surviving for at least a year compared to 45% in Canada.

The UK was also found to be much worse at recording the stage of cancer diagnosis compared to its peers, the researchers said.

Overall, the proportion of women diagnosed in the later stages of ovarian cancer was similar across all countries, which suggests that other factors - such as different treatments and quality of care - are responsible for the lower survival rates in the UK.

According to lead author Bernard Rachet, Senior Lecturer in Cancer Epidemiology, from the Cancer Survival Group at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the findings indicate that "the success of treatment is lower in the UK". 

More effort for same access

"More effort should be made to ensure that UK women with ovarian cancer have the same access to the best treatments”, he stressed.

Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said the "disturbing research" has "advanced knowledge about what needs to be done to tackle lower ovarian cancer survival in the UK". 

Achieving earlier diagnosis remains vital for improving overall survival, and treatment must be improved for advanced stage cancers, she said.

The research, which formed part of the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership, was carried out by the Cancer Research UK Cancer Survival Group at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and published in Gynecologic Oncology.