Monday, February 1, 2010

Detecting Ovarian Cancer is Difficult


The thought of ovarian cancer strikes fear for many women. Although it is not the most common cancer for women (Breast, Lung, Colon and Skin Cancer are more common), it is one of the most deadly because we have no early screening tests for ovarian cancer and it is usually advanced when detected. Women have been told that paying attention to "symptoms" and informing their physicians may be the best way to detect early ovarian cancer.


A new study published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute unfortunately shows that symptoms are a poor way of detecting early ovarian cancer. The study included over 800 women with ovarian cancer matched against a control group. The women were questioned about symptoms a year before diagnosis. The symptoms were abdominal pain, bloating or urinary urgency...symptoms that women are told to be vigilant about.


The study found that women with cancer were 10 times more likely to experience those symptoms. But there was no difference between detection of "early" vs. "advanced" ovarian cancer so the symptoms failed as a way to detect the cancer when it could be cured.


The good news is that the prevalence of ovarian cancer is low in the general population.


This study highlights the urgent need to develop better molecular markers and improved imaging modalities for ovarian cancer screening. To truly affect the cure of ovarian cancer, we need better diagnostic tools for asymptomatic women.

10 comments:

KM said...

Thank you for writing about this. It is a fear I have after having a family member and good friend die from it eight months apart.

Jonathan said...

A new diagnostic test for ovarian cancer called OVA1 is becoming available. The test will correctly indicate 92% of ovarian cancers when combined with standard imaging and patient work-up. Unfortunately, the test has a high false positive rate. You can read more here.

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