New test may detect early ovarian cancer

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: March 26th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The words “ovarian cancer” strike fear in women. And with good reason. Ovarian cancer is deadly. In American women it’s the eighth most common cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer death.

Cure rates for ovarian cancer are low… only ten to thirty percent in advanced stages. It’s also hard to diagnose because there’s no reliable test to detect the silent killer early on, even though ninety-five percent of women with the disease report symptoms.

But that may change, according to a University of Washington study. A new screening test picked up early-stage ovarian cancer fifty-seven percent of the time and advanced-stage disease eighty percent of the time.

The test features a checklist to help both patients and doctors track ovarian cancer’s symptoms and frequency, even in its early stages. Information gathered is especially valuable because ninety percent of cases could be cured if found early.

Researchers polled six-hundred-thirty-seven women about their symptoms. Twenty-four percent had ovarian cancer, forty percent were in a screening program and thirty-six percent were told to get pelvic ultrasounds. Symptoms were pelvic and abdominal pain, urinary frequency and urgency, bloated or enlarged abdomen, and feeling full or having difficulty eating.

Researchers then looked for patterns in the answers. Their findings showed that any one symptom occurring more than twelve days a month but less than a year indicated cancer.

Available now, the test could change how people think about ovarian cancer and help women be more informed about their own health.