Trials to detect the early signs of ovarian cancer have produced positive signs. Researchers believe that 86 percent of ovarian cancer cases could be detected early by regular blood testing. The trial, which was conducted over a 14-year period at University College London, was designed to offer information related to the efficacy of a potential screening programme. The trial involved 46,000 women.
The first results from the trial programme show that tumours could be detected early in many cases. However, the research team based at University College London has issued a cautious warning as at this stage, it is not know whether testing would have a significant impact on mortality rates. Prof Usha Menon said that although the results of the initial trial are positive, mortality data is not yet available and it is therefore wise to be cautious when interpreting the findings. The crunch point is whether it is possible to detect signs early enough to save lives. Mortality data is expected later in the year and this will inform the NHS about the usefulness of a screening programme.
Blood testing checks for levels of CA125, which is released by ovarian tumours. Tests are already ordered when women show signs of ovarian cancer, but the trial programme involved annual routine blood tests in 46,000 post-menopausal women from 13 NHS trusts across the country. When levels of CA125 were higher than normal, women were sent for further tests, including ultrasound and scans, and 86 percent of tumours were detected. The findings of the study have been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
In the UK, around 7,100 cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed each year, with 4,200 deaths from the disease. At the moment, many cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage because the symptoms are usually difficult to spot and they are very similar to other conditions. Possible symptoms include bloating and abdominal pain.