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Ovarian cancer hope

11th March 2009

Early results from a UK trial have indicated screening might help to detect ovarian cancer before symptoms develop.

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Ovarian cancer is 90% curable when it is treated early but because symptoms often do not become clear until later, the condition is not detected until it reaches a more advanced stage.

Researchers analysed data from the first stage of the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) trial, which will assess whether a national screening programme is a good idea.

Among the 100,000 post-menopausal women who took part, screening detected 58 cancers, but missed the disease in another 12 women.

Lead researcher Professor Ian Jacobs, director of the University College London Institute for Women's Health, said: "There is a long way to go before we have firm evidence as to whether or not screening is able to detect cancer early enough to save lives.

"It will also be essential to balance any benefits offered by screening with the downside, as it is recognised that screening can cause anxiety and lead to some unnecessary operations.''

Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the UK with 7,000 new cases and 4,500 deaths every year. With early diagnosis, survival rate is 90% but that plummets to 30% if left to a later stage.

Blood tests and ultrasound scans are being used in the UKCTOCS trial.

The scan looked for abnormalities with an accuracy rate of 75% while in the blood test group 34 out of 38 cancers were detected, an accuracy rate of 89%.

 

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