WEDNESDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- New research finds that the only two tests available to screen for ovarian cancer don't reduce the average woman's risk of dying from this "silent killer."
Screening with a blood test and then a transvaginal ultrasound might even cause harm, the University of Utah study suggests, since there was a huge number of worrisome false-positive results, subsequent biopsies and resulting complications.
"I am neither surprised nor disappointed. We kind of knew that, but it's nice to have the final results of the study," said one expert, Dr. Karen Lu, a professor of gynecologic oncology at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
"This actually confirms what we've always known," added Dr. Mark Wakabayashi, chief of gynecologic oncology at City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif.
The bottom line: there are currently no good screening techniques to detect ovarian cancer early in women who are otherwise healthy, Lu said. Unfortunately, that means that many women are diagnosed at a later stage of the illness, when it is less treatable.
"Most of these cancers are detected late, even in screening trials," Wakabayashi confirmed.
Scientists have long been investigating a blood test for a marker called CA-125, as well as transvaginal ultrasound (TVA).
To test its effectiveness, the Utah authors randomized almost 80,000 women, aged 55 to 74, to either undergo an annual CA-125 screen for six years plus TVA annually for four years, or to "usual care."
After a follow-up of up to 13 years, the researchers found no differences in ovarian cancer diagnoses or mortality rates between the two groups. There were 212 cases of ovarian cancer in the screening group, compared to 176 in the usual care group, and 118 deaths in the screening group compared to 100 in the usual care group.
The researchers plan to pr
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