Ovarian cancer is a disease that affects thousands of women worldwide each year and is often referred to as the silent killer due to its silent symptoms, including bloating, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits, which are often mistaken for other conditions. Despite advances in treatment, the disease remains a major public health concern due to its high mortality rate. However, new data from a study funded by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) suggests that a seemingly unlikely tool – supermarket loyalty card surveillance – could help spot ovarian cancer early, when it is most treatable.
The study, which was published in JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, analysed data from supermarket loyalty card programs and found that changes in purchasing behaviour could be used to detect early signs of ovarian cancer.
Researchers found that women with ovarian cancer often experience a decline in their appetite and energy levels, which can result in changes in their grocery shopping habits. By monitoring these changes in real-time, it may be possible to detect the disease early and improve the chances of successful treatment.
This is an exciting development in the fight against ovarian cancer, and one that has the potential to revolutionise the way we detect and treat the disease. By leveraging the vast amounts of data generated by supermarket card programs, healthcare providers and public health officials could identify women who may be at risk of ovarian cancer and encourage them to seek early medical attention. This could help to improve the outcomes of treatment and reduce the overall impact of the disease on society.
One of the key benefits of supermarket card surveillance is that it allows for continuous monitoring of women’s purchasing behaviour. This means that healthcare providers can receive real-time alerts when changes occur, allowing them to act quickly and effectively. This level of monitoring is not possible with traditional screening methods, which are typically performed only once or twice per year and may miss early signs of the disease.
Additionally, supermarket card surveillance is a cost-effective way to monitor the population for signs of ovarian cancer. Unlike other screening methods, it does not require specialised equipment or trained personnel, and the cost of monitoring is negligible compared to the cost of treatment. This could make it possible to implement large-scale screening programs, even in resource-limited settings, and reach a greater number of women who may be at risk of ovarian cancer.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that supermarket card surveillance is not a substitute for traditional screening methods, such as ultrasound or CA-125 tests, or for regular self-reporting and awareness of symptoms. However, it could be used as an adjunct to these methods, helping to improve the accuracy of screening and reduce the number of missed cases.
Another important consideration is the privacy of women whose purchasing behaviour is being monitored. While supermarket card surveillance has the potential to help detect ovarian cancer early, it is important to ensure that women’s privacy is protected and that the data collected is used only for medical purposes. Healthcare providers and public health officials should work together to ensure that any monitoring programs are transparent, secure, and in compliance with privacy regulations.
In conclusion, the findings of this study are a major step forward in the fight against ovarian cancer. By leveraging supermarket card surveillance, it may be possible to detect the disease early, when it is most treatable, and improve the outcomes of treatment for women around the world. However, it is important to carefully consider the privacy implications of monitoring purchasing behaviour and to ensure that any programs implemented are transparent, secure, and in compliance with privacy regulations. The early detection of ovarian cancer is a critical goal, and we hope that this research will help to pave the way for new and innovative approaches to screening and treatment. Additionally, women should be encouraged to seek medical attention if they notice any changes.
Reference Source: https://publichealth.jmir.org/2023/1/e41762
Related services available at Fleet Street Clinic:
How much would you pay to prevent bowel cancer?
£1,000? £500? £200? £100? Or just £45?
Everyone knows a friend or relative who has suffered from or unfortunately, died of bowel cancer. Also known as colorectal cancer, bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK but the second biggest killer. More than 16,000 people die from bowel cancer in the UK every year. Similar to other types of cancers, bowel cancer is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early.
The earlier it is detected, the greater the chance of survival.
However, the survival rate drops significantly as the disease develops. The optimal test for bowel cancer is a colonoscopy, but it is an invasive test which checks the lining of the bowel for cancer. Due to the invasive nature of this test, it usually happens following a positive screening result or if a person has multiple symptoms so as not to cause unnecessary discomfort is symptoms are say. related to another health issue.
As bowel cancer symptoms are also indicators for a wide range of gastroenterological (digestive system) disorders, a simpler, non-invasive FIT stool test (faecal immunochemical test) can be the first step for patients with concerns and/or symptoms such as lower abdominal symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding and/or a change in bowel habits prior to a colonoscopy.
For those who are healthy with no symptoms, FIT screening is an important way of testing healthy people to see if they show any early signs of cancer.
Bowel Cancer Screening
It can be challenging to differentiate between patients with serious bowel disease such as bowel cancer, from those with benign functional or diet-related conditions, such as IBS – irritable bowel syndrome, and minor colorectal diseases such as haemorrhoids.
A FIT test or faecal immunochemical test, looks for blood in the stool, an early sign of bowel cancer. It is a simple and effective non-invasive test.
If there is blood present, this can indicate the presence of abnormalities in the bowel, which over time may develop into cancer. Patients with a positive FIT result are then referred for further investigation by colonoscopy.
A FIT test does not diagnose bowel cancer, but it’s a simple way to find out if you need further tests. Introducing regular bowel cancer screening into your health checks will reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer.
Are all FIT Tests the same?
The short answer, no.
The sensitivity of a FIT test to detect blood in stools can be adjusted to be more or less accurate. The lower the threshold, the more sensitive the test is to blood in the stools meaning the earlier abnormalities can be identified.
Where you live in the UK dictates the FIT tests available to you, see below:
Age range: 50-74 years – Automatic invite for screenings every 2 years / 75+ done on request
Blood sensitivity threshold: 80ug per g of stool
NHS England & Wales:
Age range: 60-74 years – Automatic invite for screenings every 2 years / 75+ done on request
Blood sensitivity threshold: 120ug per g of stool
Fleet Street Clinic:
Age range: Screening recommended from 40 years onwards. Available from 20 years if symptoms are present and for individuals with a family history of bowel cancer of one or more first-degree relatives (sibling, parent or child).
Blood sensitivity threshold: 20ug per g of stool.
A big difference!
Why is this so important?
If early detection is a matter of life and death when it comes to bowel cancer then the optimum FIT test has to have the lowest sensitivity threshold to provide the most accurate diagnosis. The more sensitive the FIT screening, the more cancer and precancerous polyps can be detected, especially at an early stage of abnormality.
At Fleet Street Clinic, we are more likely to pick up blood in the stool by a factor of 4 compared to NHS Scotland and by a factor of 6 in comparison to NHS England & Wales, all without the rigid age limitations.
Bowel Cancer Screening at Fleet Street Clinic
The FIT test at Fleet Street Clinic has the lowest sensitivity threshold on the market right now. It is an easy, quick test which costs just £45.85* with results within a week.
Surely it is worth it?
If by any chance your test is positive, we provide a letter of referral which can be given to your GP (Private or NHS) or used at one of the referral centres we recommend for private colonoscopy. The choice is yours.
Tell your friends about this life-saving test and save a life – It could be your own.
If you’re concerned about bowel cancer, then it’s important to book a 15-minute GP appointment to speak to a doctor – you can book online.
* A 15-minute GP appointment costing £85 is required in addition to the cost of the FIT test.
Bowel Cancer in the UK
The beginning of April marked the start of Bowel Cancer Awareness month. Bowel cancer is very treatable and one of the most common cancers in the UK.
40,000 cases are diagnosed every year. 1 in every 20 people will develop bowel cancer in their life time.
Symptoms of bowel cancer are often ones that you may find difficult to talk about or explain to your doctor. Nobody enjoys an uncomfortable conversation, especially when it comes to being candidly honest about something so private but the earlier it’s diagnosed, the greater the chance of survival is. It’s difficult, but let’s talk about it.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?
- Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your bowel movements
- A change in your bowel habits that lasts three weeks or longer
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
- A pain or a lump in your stomach
AM I AT RISK OF BOWEL CANCER?
Currently we do not know what causes this cancer. We have been able to identify some factors that can increase your risk of getting the disease:
- Aged over 50
- A strong family history of bowel cancer
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of exercise and being inactive
- Longstanding inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
HOW CAN I HELP PREVENT BOWEL CANCER?
There is no way to 100% prevent bowel cancer unfortunately. Things like family history, you cannot change.
However, there are some ways you can help yourself as recommended by the NHS.
- Improve your diet – eat less processed foods and red meat, eat more fish and fibre
- It is recommended that adults exercise for at least 2.5 hours a week
- Making sure you are a ‘healthy’ weight
- Stop smoking
- Cut down on alcohol
You can read all about these tips here on the NHS website.
GET SCREENED FOR BOWEL CANCER
If you are concerned about possible symptoms and are not eligible for NHS screening (aged between 60 – 74 and registered with a GP), you can make an appointment to speak with one of our experienced GPs (male or female GP’s).