Early detection of ovarian cancer

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
June 23, 2008 4:16:33 PM PDT
It's a one-two combination that can improve early detection of ovarian cancer. New research shows a simple questionnaire and a blood test may improve early detection of ovarian cancer by 20 percent.Ovarian cancer takes the lives of 16,000 women every year, usually because it is diagnosed late. The new study, released online in the Journal Cancer, adds to last year's ground-breaking recommendations by the by the National Institutes of Health and other cancer organizations to help women recognize some possible early symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Three-fourths of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have it found when it is at an advanced stage. But women can help doctors find it earlier by paying attention to changes in their bodies.

A year ago, some early symptoms associated with ovarian cancer were identified, and women were advised to become aware of them.

Now, there is another new step from researchers.

"This is an initiative to try to diagnose more cases at an earlier stage," said Dr. Thomas Herzog, of New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Hospital. "Everyone agrees this is a significant advance.

The study says there are four symptoms in a woman's body that merit attention.

They are bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and urinary symptoms relating to urgency or frequency.

But the problem is that these symptoms are vague. They show up often and usually are not related to ovarian cancer. So there is more guidance. The symptoms should be new, beginning to occur within the last year. And they should occur at least 12 times a month.

"If you have some of these type of symptoms that are new, it's time to talk to your physician about further workup," Dr. Herzog said.

The workup is a blood-test known as CA-125. Having it after the symptoms index is met can increase the chances of early detection of ovarian cancer, according to the study.

But the blood test alone is not able to identify ovarian cancer because it is too often wrong. But the doctors say that, along with the symptoms, it can increase the chances of early detection by 20 percent.

The report cautions that further research must be done before this combination of a blood test and symptom profile used among the study women can be adopted for general use in the doctor's office.

For more information on ovarian cancer, click here.

Click here for the American Cancer Society.


STORY BY: Dr. Jay Adlersberg