The New York Times editorial "False Promises on Ovarian Cancer" says it all. What is most concerning is that a third of doctors recommend what medical science shows not to be true: screening for ovarian cancer does NOT work.
Ovarian Cancer ScreeningOne of the most feared cancers for many women is ovarian cancer, which occurs in one out of sixty-eight women. Unfortunately, like many cancers (lung, pancreatic), there is no screening test that has been helpful to detect the illness early and reliably proven to save lives.
Until organizations like the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommend certain tests or examinations, everything you may hear on the news or from friends about breakthroughs in screenings is inaccurate.
In the latest update by the American Cancer Society, women are urged to seek medical care if they have had the following symptoms, which could be early signs of ovarian cancer:
- Abdominal swelling or bloating (due to a mass or accumulation of fluid)
- Pelvic pressure or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating, or a feeling of being full quickly
- Urinary symptoms (having to go urgently or often)
Certainly many benign causes also can cause similar symptoms. If you have these symptoms, they are not typical for you, and you aren’t sure what the cause might be, check with your doctor. The ACS acknowledges that two tests often used to “screen” for ovarian cancer are the blood test CA-125, a tumor marker, and/or a transvaginal ultrasound, an ultrasound probe placed in the vagina to evaluate the ovaries. The update correctly notes that in women at high risk for ovarian cancer and those with no risk, neither test has been shown to save lives.
Unfortunately, until medical researchers find a better and more precise test, women will need to be observant about their bodies. This is the best medical science has in trying to detect ovarian cancer early.