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‘Loyalty card could help spot ovarian cancer symptoms earlier’

27 January 2023

Dr James Flanagan’s research, at the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre at Imperial College London, discovered an increase in purchasing of pain and indigestion medication from women with ovarian cancer, up to eight months before diagnosis, compared to women without. The first-of-its-kind study for cancer used loyalty card data on items bought to try to help spot ovarian cancer symptoms earlier. 

Marie-Claire Platt, Head of Policy and Research at Ovarian Cancer Action said ‘Early diagnosis in ovarian cancer is vital when it comes to women being given the best chance of survival. The more, new ways we can reach women potentially displaying symptoms and encourage them to take action, the more lives we can save.’  

Dr Flanagan’s work has focused on ovarian cancer risk and prevention, previously working on a project funded by Ovarian Cancer Action, to understand how lifestyle factors could cause biological changes that lead to increased risk of ovarian cancer.  

We spoke to Dr Flanagan in 2022 to hear more about the cancer loyalty card study, funded by Cancer Research UK, and how it could help identify people who may have ovarian cancer at an earlier stage. 

How our Research Network planned a pivotal role 

Our Ovarian Cancer Action Research Network is a nationwide, virtual group of people affected by ovarian cancer who use their experience of the disease to help shape ovarian cancer research. Your personal experience of ovarian cancer – as a patient, survivor or carer – can influence ovarian cancer research and ensure it is relevant to patients and their loved ones. 

Two of our network members, and Ovarian Cancer Action supporters, Fiona Murphy and Deb Tanner, worked with Dr Flanagan to shape and design the study. Fiona highlighted how her reliance on pain medication for indigestion may have delayed her diagnosis.  

If you are or have been a patient, or have a BRCA mutation and would like to get involved in landmark projects like this, sign up to be part of our Research Network. You’ll be the first to hear about the latest opportunities to shape cutting edge ovarian cancer research.