New test may detect ovarian cancer earlier
Researchers at the University of Texas say a new screening procedure shows “potential” for detecting ovarian cancer at an early stage. When caught early, ovarian cancer has up to a 90 percent survival rate, compared to 30 percent when discovered in later stages.
Scientists already use a blood test to screen for a protein called CA125, which is elevated in women with ovarian cancer. But this method is unreliable on its own, often creating false positives and missing other patients who do have the disease. The researchers are testing a method that sorts patients into risk groups based on their levels of CA125. Low-risk patients are tested again in a year, medium-risk patients are tested again in three months, and high-risk patients have an ultrasound to look for tumors.
This trial followed 4,051 post-menopausal women for 11 years on average. Ten women had surgery based on their ultrasound scan, and all the tumors were caught in early stages. Researchers say this trial shouldn't change clinical practice immediately, but they noted that they also did not get many false positives.
A much larger study, involving 50,000 women in the U.K., should provide a more definitive assessment of the method. That study will not be completed, however, until 2015.