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Ovarian Cancer Blood Test Increases Early Detection

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, June 24, 2008 10:59 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Women's Health, Reproductive Health, Biomarkers, Drug Products

Combining a blood test for protein connected to ovarian cancer, along with early symptoms, appears to increase earlier diagnosis of ovary cancers.  



IMAGE SOURCE:  Wikimedia Commons/ anatomy of the ovaries/ U.S. Govt. Seer Training


Adding a blood test to the "symptom index" for ovarian cancer, can lead to earlier and more accurate detection of the “silent killer.”

Symptoms of ovarian cancer are often subtle, but most women knew something was wrong before they were diagnosed. Adding a blood test to look for a tumor marker, can increase detection to 80 percent.

University of Washington researcher, Dr. Barbara Goff analyzed the subtle symptoms to issue a 2004 groundbreaking study of a “symptom index” indicative of ovarian cancer. That was effective in catching 57 percent of the disease in its early stages.

In the latest phase of the study, Dr. Goff and researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, added a blood test, CA125, which looks for a protein often found with ovarian cancer. When combined with the symptom index, they found more than four out of five early stage ovarian cancers. 

By itself CA125 finds half of ovarian cancers.  CA125 can also sometimes be found elevated in women who do not have ovarian cancer, and is not a good indicator on its own.

In this study, 254 women with a family history of ovarian cancer who were healthy, and 75 women with ovarian cancer were surveyed.  All were given the CA125 marker test and were questioned about symptoms.  The two together identified about 90 percent of ovarian cancers, among them 80.6 percent were early stage.

About 14 percent of the women with symptoms and elevated CA125, did not have cancer.

Robyn Andersen, PhD of Fred Hutchinson tells WebMD, “But when they’re combined, if either one is positive we might be able to identify 80.6% of women with early stage ovarian cancer. Women with early stage disease have good chance of a cure - it’s just that right now, we don’t find many of them in time.”

The symptoms of ovarian cancer, though subtle, may be dismissed by a doctor, but may include:

·         Gastrointestinal or bowel irritability

·         Bloating

·         Pelvic or abdominal pain

·         Feeling full quickly or difficulty eating

·         Symptoms that newly occur  and occur more than 12 times per month

·         Urinary symptoms ( urgency or frequency)

These symptoms alone probably do not indicate ovarian cancer, researchers warn.

The American Cancer Society looked at the health records of women eventually diagnosed with ovarian cancer and found prior to being diagnosed that many were likely to complain of abdominal problems.

Surgery is ultimately the way to diagnose cancer, but use of CA125, plus ultrasound to look for growths on the ovaries, might better identify candidates for surgery.

Ovarian cancer remains the most deadly cancer of the female reproductive system. About 20 percent are found in an early stage.  When found early, about 94 percent of women live longer than five years after diagnosis.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) reports more than 22,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year. More than 15,000 women die from ovarian cancer every year according to the ACS.

The findings are in the August 1 issue of the online journal, Cancer. #

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