THE number of requests by GPs in Scotland for a potentially life-saving blood test which can detect ovarian cancer early has increased significantly since a shake-up in the referrals process three years ago.

Last year in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde a total of 15,598 requests were received for CA125 tests, compared to 15,598 the previous year.

However, the rise in requests varies massively between health boards amid fears from cancer campaigners that “red flag” symptoms are being mistaken by doctors for more common illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Figures obtained by freedom of information show that the number of CA125 tests carried out across Scotland climbed 39 per cent between 2013/14 and 2016/17, from 47,421 to 65,894.

The test is important because it is one of the quickest and cheapest ways to spot potential ovarian cancer cases.

Initial results from a study led by University College London suggest routine CA125 screening could save more lives but more thorough data is expected in 2018.

In 2013, Scotland became the only part of the UK to introduce guidelines instructing GPs who suspected a patient may have ovarian cancer to order a CA125 test and ultrasound simultaneously in order to speed up diagnosis.

Rebecca Rennison, of Target Ovarian Cancer said: “There is still this myth that there aren’t symptoms, but they’re out there in the guidelines.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Through our Detect Cancer Early programme, we aim to increase the proportion of cancers that are detected at the earliest stages.”