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Ovarian cancer screening looks promising

A study involving blood tests and ultrasound scans for early detection of ovarian cancer has produced promising results

A study involving blood tests and ultrasound scans for early detection of ovarian cancer has produced promising results.

The largest ever trial investigating ovarian cancer involves 200,000 post-menopausal women and is being run from the Gynaecological Cancer Research Centre at the University College London's (UCL) Institute for Women's Health.

Results from the study were published in The Lancet Oncology and showed that using both the blood test and ultrasound together identified 90 per cent of ovarian cancer cases. Ultrasound alone picked up ovarian cancer in 75 per cent of women. Just under half of the cancers detected were at an early stage where women have a 90 per cent change of surviving the disease.

The trial involves two screen methods: a blood test measures levels of a protein called CA125 which can be elevated in women with ovarian cancer, and a transvaginal ultrasound scan is used to look for abnormalities in the ovaries.

Trial co-ordinator, Dr Usha Menon said: "The early results suggest that both types of screening can be used on a large scale and both successfully identify ovarian cancers."

Lead investigator Professor Ian Jacobs, director of the UCL Institute for Women's Health stressed that there is a long way to go before there will be firm evidence of whether early detection of ovarian cancer through screening can save lives.

Commenting on the trial, he said: "It will conclude in just over five years and if the findings are positive my hope is that what we learn will pave the way for a national ovarian cancer screening programme."

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women in the UK, affecting around 6,800 women each year; it is the fourth most common cause of death from cancer in women.

11th March 2009

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