Thursday, December 27, 2007

No effective screening test for ovarian cancer, yet

A recent study found that annual transvaginal ultrasounds with annual blood tests for a tumor maker CA125 did not pick up ovarian cancer at an earlier stage. A retrospective study, it looked at 341 women with a family history of ovarian cancer. Of the four that had ovarian cancer, only one was detected at surgery and the other three developed ovarian cancer between the screening tests.

The authors concluded that for women who are at average risk for ovarian cancer (i.e. no family history), that "ovarian cancer screening should not be offered unless it is within a clinical trial aimed at developing new methods for ovarian screening."

It is frustrating for both doctors and patients that there is no current effective screening test for this deadly disease. This is probably why in June 2007, the American Cancer Society as well as the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists issued a press release about symptoms women should watch out for that could be early signs of ovarian cancer.

  • bloating
  • pelvic or abdominal pain
  • trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • urinary symptoms, such as urgent or frequent feelings of needing to go
Although the above conditions are more likely to be due to other less serious conditions, patients are encouraged to see their doctors, preferably gynecologists, if the symptoms are present daily and last more than a few weeks. The fact that this is the best these expert groups can recommend means that there is still a lot more research that needs to be done.

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