A simple blood test combined with an ultrasound could help doctors catch ovarian cancer much sooner, while it is still treatable, a new report has stated. The report also states that the new screening procedure can help cut down on false positive readings and unnecessary invasive surgery.
Unlike other forms of cancer, ovarian cancer currently has no definitive screening process and everything that has been tried has been too inaccurate to use and leads to many false positives. These false positives require invasive surgery to check for the presence of cancer and if no cancer is found, the surgery has done more harm than good to the woman.
But the new study, which ran for 11 years and included more than 4,000 women, is cause for excitement. The two-stage screening method appeared nearly 100 percent accurate at ruling out harmful false alarms in postmenopausal women.
However, researchers warn, more data is needed before the new screening process is rolled out for the general population. The study, although encouraging, was limited in some ways. For example, most of the 4,000 women who took part were white.
“The important message is that this shouldn’t change clinical practice right now,” Dr. Karen Lu, a professor of gynecologic oncology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “We don’t have enough data.”
A much larger study of more than 200,000 women is underway in the United Kingdom currently. Preliminary results from that trial that were released in 2009 were positive, and researchers are awaiting the final results, due in 2015.
“We really need to wait for the U.K. data before we’re able to institute this as a screening method,” Lu said.
The new screening method combines a blood test that measures a protein shed by tumor cells called CA-125 and an ultrasound exam to give doctors a look at the ovaries.
Although those two tests have been used together before, with disappointing results, the key difference this time is that the researchers used more than one blood test and tracked fluctuations in a woman’s blood test results over time, specifically how the measure of CA-125 changed over time.