Researchers in the US have discovered a potential new way to detect ovarian cancer. Currently, tumors are difficult to detect in the early stages of ovarian cancer, and there is no effective mass screening program.
The study, which was published on August 26 in the journal Cancer, followed 4,051 post-menopausal women for an 11-year period. Scientists have long known that levels of the protein CA125 are higher in the blood of women with ovarian cancer, so the women’s CA125 levels were tracked through yearly blood tests. The participants were sorted into low-, medium-, or high-risk of cancer groups based on their protein levels, and women who had high levels were referred to a gynecologist for an ultrasound. Several women were then treated for early stage cancer.
The findings suggest this screening method may be effective at early detection of cancer. Early detection is vital because currently the survival rate is 90 percent if it is caught early, but only 30 percent if it is caught in the later stages.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer, such as bloating and abdominal or pelvic pain, are often dismissed, so women may ignore them until they are already in the late stages. “Early detection of ovarian cancer will be the key to transforming survival rates. However, this study is very small, and there is no guarantee that the results will be replicated on a larger scale,” Annwen Jones, the chief executive at Target Ovarian Cancer, said in a statement.
Trials of 50,000 women are ongoing in the UK and expected to be completed by 2015. If the UK trials confirm the findings from the present study, tracking CA125 levels could become routine practice.