Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer May Become Possible
Finally there’s hope for possibly saving a lot of lives by detecting ovarian cancer at an early stage and thus allowing for treatment before the disease develops too far:
A new version of a screening test for ovarian cancer may reduce deaths from the disease, but it needs more study to determine whether the benefits hold up, researchers reported on Thursday.
The findings come from a 14-year study of more than 200,000 women in Britain, published in The Lancet.
“We need to follow up to confirm that this is absolutely significant throughout,” said Dr. Usha Menon, an author of the Lancet article and head of the gynecological cancer center at University College London. She said, “This is almost there, but not yet.”
Her reason for caution was that the study passed only two of three tests of statistical significance, which means that the apparent benefits of screening might have been due to chance. She said a few more years of monitoring the participants would resolve that question.
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Deborah Denehy received chemotherapy directly to her abdomen to treat ovarian cancer, a treatment that remains underused in the United States.
The study results have been long awaited because ovarian cancer has a poor prognosis. The disease has no symptoms in its early stages and can progress rapidly, so most cases are advanced by the time they are found. Only about 45 percent of ovarian cancer patients are still alive five years after a diagnosis.
This year, 21,290 new cases and 14,180 deaths from ovarian cancer are expected in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
Past efforts to find a screening method have focused on two tests: ultrasound examinations of the ovaries, and a blood test to measure CA125, a “tumor marker” sometimes linked to early-stage disease. But in previous studies, those tests did not work: They did not lower the death rate and they produced too many false-positive results that led healthy women to have unnecessary surgery.
The Lancet study also used CA125, but in a different way. Instead of declaring a certain level abnormal, the researchers developed a mathematical formula that took into account a woman’s age and the degree of change in CA125 over time, and calculated a risk score.
Experts not associated with the Lancet study agreed that the test was not ready for routine use, and they varied in their optimism about it…