Healthy women may soon be able to be screened for ovarian cancer. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is a disease that usually doesn’t reveal any symptoms until it is too late.
Before they caused symptoms, deadly tumors were found with the combination of ultrasound exams and a simple blood test during this study. This said, the study, which was performed on more than 3,000 American women, is currently not quite large enough to defend screening with this method. Doctors are optimistic though, because it validates early results from a larger study going on in England that will provide a definite answer in a few years.
The U.S. study indicates that this method will be able to locate aggressive, deadly tumors, without having to make healthy women endure unneeded follow-up tests. Not many of the women in the study needed exploratory surgery after screening. For those who did, one in three turned out to have an invasive cancer. All of the aggressive cancers that were detected were found in an early, curable stage according to Dr. Laura Havrilesky, a women’s cancer specialist at Duke University.
Dr. Karen Lu, of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, says that the method “is starting to look very, very promising.”
Researchers have been testing CA-125, which is a protein in the blood that is usually high in most women with ovarian cancer. There are many reasons that it can be high, such as uterine fibroids and harmless cysts, so it’s not accurate enough to be used by itself for screening.
Ovarian cancer is incredibly deadly because almost 80 percent of cases are found at an advanced stage. Last year, approximately 21,550 women were diagnosed with it and 14,600 died in the U.S. If the cancer is found early, five-year survival is 94 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
WARNING SYMPTOMS OF OVARIAN CANCER
Contact your MD if you develop one or more of these symptoms and they persist for 2-3 weeks:
-Abdominal Swelling/Bloating/Clothes Too Tight
-Abdominal/Pelvic Pain or Pressure or Feeling “Full”
-Gastrointestinal Symptoms (such as gas, indigestion, nausea, or changes in bowel movements)
-Vaginal Bleeding or Discharge
-Urinary Problems – Urgency, Burning, or Spasms
-Fatigue and/or Fever
-Pain During Intercourse