Almost 50 percent of all the cancers found were in an early stage (stage I or II), the researchers noted. And 48 percent of the more invasive ovarian cancers detected were designated as being stage I tumors. Usually, only 28 percent of ovarian cancers are identified in this early stage, the researchers pointed out.
To see whether these screening strategies have an impact on mortality, the women will continue to be screened through 2012 and followed until the end of 2014, the researchers said.
Menon stressed that it's too early to make firm recommendations based on these early findings.
"Preliminary results are encouraging," she said. "Both types of screening can be used on a large scale, and both successfully pick up ovarian cancers. But for a final answer as to whether ovarian cancer screening will save lives, we need to wait till 2015, when the trial will be finished."
For his part, the ACS' Smith said that experts have learned to be cautious when it comes to advocating a particular screening method for ovarian cancer.
"What we have is a long line of disappointing findings using either CA125 alone or ultrasound alone," he explained. But he added that, "in combination, the performance appears to be much better."
Although some women are getting these tests in the United States, women should not be asking to get these tests based on this preliminary data, Smith said. "Right now, the only group of women that is recommended to undergo any testing for ovarian cancer are women who are at very high risk due to family history," he said.
"This screening trial is both a test of whether we can actually deliver these tests and whether we have shown better survival. But more importantly, have we shown that there is a lower rate of ovarian cancer deaths?" Smith said.
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