Ovarian cancer test not effective

Study shows no difference in mortality rates from deadly cancer

SAN ANTONIO (June 9, 2011) — A study of nearly 80,000 women showed that a screening tool used to detect the presence of ovarian cancer does not reduce cancer mortality, and can lead to complications in the event of a false positive.

Ovarian cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in U.S. women, mainly because it is difficult to detect until it has advanced to a late stage. Now the well-known screening tool, cancer antigen 125 (CA 125) test, has been shown to be a disappointment.

“We need new screening techniques for asymptomatic women, because the old ones have been less effective than we’d hoped,” said Kevin Hall, M.D., chief of the division of gynecology/oncology in the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. There are alternatives that have not yet been evaluated by such large studies, he noted.

The ovarian data from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Screening Randomized Controlled Trial, posted on the Journal of the American Medical Association web site last week, divided 78,216 women into two groups, one of which received CA125 screening and the other that received standard exams and care.

There was no significant difference in mortality rates from ovarian cancer between the two groups, although a number of women who were given the CA125 screens got false positives and more than a 1,000 received unnecessary surgery as a result. Of those women, 163 experienced serious complications.

“We conclude that the screening intervention, as implemented in this trial, was not effective in reducing mortality caused by ovarian cancer,” the study’s authors concluded, “but does increase invasive medical procedures and associated harms.”

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $228 million in fiscal year 2010. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $744 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.

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