New study reveals that screening tests for ovarian cancer may do more harm than good. Ovarian cancer is serious business--it kills more than half of patients within five years of the diagnosis. Ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed when it has already spread and it's too late for a cure. Many women want to be screened for ovarian cancer, but the new study raised questions about screening.
Screening for other types of cancer in the colon, breast and cervix have saved many lives. So, what's wrong with screening for ovarian cancer?
New study raises doubts about screening for ovarian cancer
The 18-year old study revealed that women who were screened for ovarian cancer died of the cancer at the same rate as those who were not screened for ovarian cancer. The study was done by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and included 78,216 women.
The two tests used to screen for ovarian cancer in postmenopausal women are an ultrasound and a blood test called CA-125. The study reported that these tests aren't very accurate and sometimes produce false alarms. Some benign conditions, such as an ovarian cyst or a twisted fallopian tube, can cause elevations in the CA-125 protein.
The study reported that the false alarms can cause more than just anxiety about ovarian cancer. Nearly 3,300 healthy women had unnecessary surgery and 166 developed surgical complications, according to the study.
Robert Berger of Pennsylvania's Fox-Chase Cancer Center stated that screening for ovarian cancer is not effective, since this cancer follows an unpredictable growth pattern. Berger stated, "There's no convincing evidence that these (ovarian) tumors progress in an orderly way. What we see is an explosive onset, almost like an earthquake."
Should you stop screening for ovarian cancer? This answer, in this author's opinion, is "no". Ultasound has no adverse side effects, i.e., radiation, and the CA-125 blood test does not harm the patient. There is no downside to screening for ovarian cancer with these tests (despite the study's findings). The only downside is an operation that my be unnecessary due to false results that can happen with these tests.
My advise: Do the tests, but tread carefully with the operations that may be recommended for suspected ovarian cancer. Speak with your doctor about the possibility of a false positive result from the tests. If you have risk factors for ovarian cancer the operation may save your life.
If you have questions about ovarian cancer, I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 866-889-6882. You can always request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims at the home page of website at www.protectingpatientrights.com. I welcome your comments about this blog.