Ovarian cancer screening may save lives

Screening for ovarian cancer could save lives, a study has shown. Source: AAP

Ovarian cancer screening may reduce the number of women dying from the disease, according to new research.

Screening based on an annual blood test may help reduce the number of women dying from ovarian cancer by around 20 per cent.

The results of the world's largest ovarian cancer screening trial, involving 202,638 post-menopausal women aged 50 to 74, are published in The Lancet.

"Our research team has previously established that screening is acceptable to women, has a high detection rate and a low false positive rate," says lead author and UNSW president and vice-chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs.

"Now we have the first evidence to suggest screening can reduce the number of women dying from the disease by an estimated 15 to 28 per cent."

The researchers said longer follow-up is needed to establish more certain estimates of how many deaths could be prevented and if screening the general population is cost effective.

The 14-year study - the United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening - was co-ordinated by University College London (UCL).

Early results suggested that approximately 15 ovarian cancer deaths could be prevented for every 10,000 women who attend a screening programme involving annual blood tests for between seven to 11 years.

The screening blood test, called ROCA, uses a statistical calculation to interpret changing levels over time of a blood protein, CA125, which is linked to ovarian cancer.

It gives a more accurate calculation of a woman's individual risk of having the disease than a one-off blood test measuring a fixed cut-off point for CA125.

ROCA - The Risk of Ovarian Cancer Algorithm - was co-invented by Prof Jacobs and is licensed to a UCL spin out company of which he is a non-executive director.

Ovarian Cancer Australia's Dr Katherine Nielsen said the organisation would like the screening test to eventually be made accessible and affordable nationally to provide more options for women at risk.

"In the meantime, while we wait for improved early detection, symptom awareness is ever important, and remains the key to achieving a timely diagnosis."

Cancer Research UK's Dr Fiona Reddington said it was uncertain whether screening can reduce ovarian cancer deaths overall.

"While this is an important step in ovarian cancer research, we would not recommend a national screening program at this point," she said.

Source AAP

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