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NHS to trial blood test to detect early-stage ovarian cancer

The trial is set to run in Walsall, Sandwell and Birmingham for 18 months

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The NHS is to trial an advanced blood test that may help detect early-stage ovarian cancer in a move that could save “thousands of lives”.

The trial, set to run across the West Midlands for 18 months, involves a blood test called ROMA (Risk of Ovarian Malignancy Algorithm).

The test looks at the CA125 score – a marker for ovarian cancer – the HE4 test score and the woman’s menopausal status to check for pre- and post-menopausal risk of cancer and malignant disease from ovarian cancer.

As part of the trial, it will be offered to those experiencing ovarian cancer symptoms to try and identify the disease at an earlier stage.

The project, led by Sandwell and West Birmingham and Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, in partnership with the University of Birmingham, will see ROMA given to patients at GP surgeries run by care provider Modality.

Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related death in women worldwide. In the UK, it is the sixth most common cancer, with around 7,500 new cases every year.

“Unfortunately [for] women in the UK, the majority of women will be diagnosed at stage three or four ovarian cancer, when the cancer has spread beyond the ovaries and into other parts of the tummy,” Professor Sudha Sundar, from the University of Birmingham, told the BBC.

“If we are able to shift the way in which we are diagnosing ovarian cancer now, we will be able to substantially increase the number of lives saved in the UK and worldwide.

“I would put that number as thousands of lives [potentially] saved.”

Early detection of ovarian cancer can significantly improve the overall survival rate of women diagnosed with the disease.

However, diagnosis can be delayed since early signs may not be obvious. In the UK, one in five women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed in A&E and many do not receive any treatment for their disease, often because they are too unwell by the time they are diagnosed.

Researchers at Imperial College London have previously suggested that using loyalty card data on over-the-counter medicine purchases could help spot ovarian cancer cases earlier.

Dr James Flanagan, lead author for the study, from Imperial’s Department of Surgery & Cancer, said: “Using shopping data, our study found a noticeable increase in purchases of pain and indigestion medications among women with ovarian cancer up to eight months before diagnosis, compared with women without ovarian cancer.

“This suggests that long before women have recognised their symptoms as alarming enough to go to the GP, they may be treating them at home.

“As we know early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is key to improving chances of survival, we hope this research can lead to ovarian cancer symptoms being picked up earlier and improve patients’ options for treatment,” he added.

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New survey to ‘amplify’ marginalised voices in healthcare decision-making

UK charities enter partnership to address gender gap and advocate for inclusive healthcare policies

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The gynaecological health charity Cysters and Endometriosis UK have announced a partnership to amplify women’s voice in healthcare decision-making.

Despite progress in healthcare data collection, there remains a gap in representing the experiences of marginalised groups, particularly for those impacted by conditions and diseases like endometriosis.

Decision-makers in Parliament and the NHS often rely on data and statistics to inform policy and resource allocation. However, these datasets may not accurately reflect the experiences of marginalised communities.

A recent report from Endometriosis UK that gathered data on the experiences of being diagnosed with endometriosis in the UK found that whilst the ethnicity of respondents who identified as ‘white’ was proportionate to the data collected in the Census 2021, the remaining data was not illustrative of the ethnic diversity of the UK, with 15 per cent of respondents choosing not to respond to the ethnicity question.

To address this gap and advocate for inclusive healthcare policies, Cysters and Endometriosis UK are launching a new survey initiative aimed at amplifying the voices of marginalised groups in healthcare decision-making.

“We know that the current statistics are not inclusive of all communities, particularly marginalised groups,” said Neelam Heera-Shergill, founder of Cysters.

“By encouraging those from marginalised communities to share their experiences through this survey, they will be helping us to advocate for the changes that are needed, backed by evidence from their communities.

“In addition to delving into the diagnosis journey for people of colour and the unique barriers they encounter. We aim for this research and findings to pave the way for additional funded research on all menstrual-related conditions affecting people of colour.”

The survey seeks to gather insights into the experiences of marginalised communities, particularly concerning conditions and diseases like endometriosis.

Participants are encouraged to share their experiences openly and honestly, knowing that their responses will contribute to shaping more inclusive healthcare policies.

Sarah Harris, a researcher at Cysters, said: “We urge everyone to participate in this survey and share it far and wide. Together, we can ensure that all voices are considered in the conversation surrounding healthcare policy and resource allocation.”

The survey is anonymous and takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. To participate, visit Delayed Diagnosis of Endometriosis Among People of Colour in the UK Survey.

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Menstrual care start-up launches period equity initiative across college campuses

The initiative is hoped to facilitate access to period care and educate students on the use of more sustainable products

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Cherie Hoeger, founder and CEO of Saalt

The US menstrual care start-up Saalt has launched a new initiative aimed at addressing period poverty and environmental sustainability.

The Period Equity Initiative aims to reduce 100 million tampons from the environment while combatting period poverty.

Institutions, including Harvard University, Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, the University of Utah and the University of Nebraska, are already participating in the programme.

One in five female college students in the US have had to decide between buying period products and paying for other basic essentials like food and other bills according to a nationwide survey.

The initiative, a direct response to the demand for more units for student populations, underscores the issue of period poverty, which affects students across America, challenging the misconception that it is solely an “overseas problem”.

Saalt aims to make period care accessible and affordable through the subsidisation of reusable period products, such as cups, discs, and period underwear, to participating universities and their campus affiliates.

The project is hoped to not only facilitate access to period care, but also educate students on the use of more sustainable products, which are designed to be reused rather than discarded.

“Every day we hear from customers about how life-changing Saalt cups are for them,” said Cherie Hoeger, founder and CEO of Saalt.

“Creating period equity and managing the environmental impact created by disposables are pressing matters that demand urgent attention and innovative solutions.

“Through our Period Equity Initiative, we’re taking a proactive approach to tackle these challenges by leveraging our expertise and aligning with universities across America to make a big impact closer to home.”

The Period Equity Initiative, Hoeger added, furthers Saalt’s commitment to making period care more affordable, accessible and sustainable.

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Medical device start-up enters partnership with Bayer Switzerland

The collaboration is hoped to help “transform” gynaecological examinations

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The medical device start-up Aspivix has announced a partnership with Bayer Switzerland in an effort to “modernise” gynaecological procedures.

Aspivix has developed an innovative, suction-based cervical device designed as an alternative to the tenaculum, a surgical instrument commonly used in gynaecology for over a century.

The device aims to reduce pain and bleeding during transcervical procedures, including IUD placement.

Through the partnership with Bayer, Aspivix is now officially introducing Carevix in an effort to “transform” gynaecological examinations.

The collaboration is hoped to help bring the tool to market and offer women a more comfortable gynaecological experience, reducing the cases of pain associated with IUD procedures.

“We are excited to enter this partnership with Bayer (Schweiz) AG that truly emphasise the goal of empowering women to select the best contraceptive solution without worrying about potential pain and bleeding,” said Mathieu Horras, co-founder and CEO of Aspivix.

“The thorough research and clinical data behind Carevix guarantee a notable decrease in pain and bleeding, enhancing the experience of IUD adoption and placement, as well as various other gynaecological procedures for millions of women.”

The device, Horras added, provides an appealing alternative to the currently available tenaculum, filling an “important” unmet need.

Marco Gierten, Bayer Switzerland women’s healthcare lead, said: “As a globally trusted brand, Bayer remains committed to advancing solutions that provide significant benefits to patients.”

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