U.S. panel rejects ovarian cancer screens for low-risk women

September 10, 2012 by Amanda Gardner, Healthday Reporter
U.S. panel rejects ovarian cancer screens for low-risk women
Renewing prior recommendations, experts say current tests not worth it for most.

(HealthDay)—A leading U.S. government panel has recommended against ovarian cancer screening for women who are not at high risk for the disease.

The blood test and transvaginal ultrasound that are currently used to spot may cause more harm than benefit for those patients, according to final guidelines issued Monday by the U.S. Preventive Services . who have the (BRCA1/) or family histories that raise their chances of developing ovarian cancer should be referred for genetic testing and counseling, the recommendations add.

These latest guidelines, which were also published Sept. 11 in the , mirror those set by the task force back in 2004.

"There is no existing method of screening for ovarian cancer that is effective in reducing deaths," Dr. Virginia Moyer, chair of the U.S. Task Force, said in a USPSTF statement issued Monday. "In fact, a high percentage of women who undergo screening experience false-positive test results and consequently may be subjected to unnecessary harms, such as major surgery," she said.

"In light of this, there is a critical need to develop better screening tests for ovarian cancer," Moyer added.

Experts agreed that effective tests to screen for ovarian cancer are desperately needed.

"It is very important that the population at large understands that screening with [ultrasound] and CA 125 is not beneficial at this time," said Dr. Diana Contreras, director of gynecologic oncology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. "It is clear new avenues need to be pursued, and women need to insist that more research is performed attempting to find an adequate screening mechanism so that ovarian cancer can be detected at a curable stage."

In addition, Dr. Elizabeth Poynor, a and pelvic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said: "The task force statement highlights the need for innovations and ongoing clinical investigation in ovarian cancer screening techniques. Women should review with their health care providers the early warning signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, as well as their family and personal health histories in order to develop individualized strategies for risk reduction. Women should be offered participation in clinical trials in ovarian , when available and appropriate," she added.

Dr. David Grossman, a member of the task force and senior investigator with Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, said that "the tests that we have, unfortunately, just aren't very accurate and, with a lot of false positives, a lot of women get harmed with unnecessary biopsies and surgeries."

A large study published last year found no difference in mortality between women who were randomly assigned to receive a blood test plus the ultrasound compared to those who had "usual care."

What's more, some 10 percent of women who underwent screening received a false-positive result and one-third of these had an ovary removed unnecessarily.

Another study estimated that 33 surgeries were needed to diagnose one case of ovarian cancer using the blood test/ultrasound screening.

Preliminary data from yet another trial, ongoing in the United Kingdom, also turned up false-positive results in about 10 percent of women undergoing screening. Half of those women had surgery and about 4 percent of these experienced a major complication from the surgery.

Like many screening tests, the blood test plus ultrasound for ovarian cancer "doesn't work, is potentially dangerous and also costs a lot of money," said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La. "You're giving people a false sense of security, and it creates a lot of false positives, which ultimately results in a lot of unnecessary surgeries."

The task force's recommendations are also in line with recommendations from the American Cancer Society and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Grossman said.

This leaves women with no good test to screen for ovarian cancer, considered a "silent killer" because symptoms are often noticed too late to be treatable.

And there are no other techniques on the horizon, Grossman added.

Explore further: U.S. panel rejects ovarian cancer screening

More information: The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on ovarian cancer.


Related Stories

U.S. panel rejects ovarian cancer screening

April 10, 2012
(HealthDay) -- A leading U.S. government panel has renewed its 2004 recommendation that women at average risk for ovarian cancer not get screened for the disease.

Ovarian cancer screening does not appear to reduce risk of ovarian cancer death

June 5, 2011
In a clinical trial that included nearly 80,000 women, those who received ovarian cancer screening did not have a reduced risk of death from ovarian cancer compared to women who received usual care, but did have an increase ...

Depression affected preventive health screening among Latina breast cancer survivors

September 19, 2011
Depression, in addition to other barriers, may prevent Latina breast cancer survivors from undergoing preventive health screening for colorectal and ovarian cancer, according to data presented at the Fourth AACR Conference ...

Recommended for you

New strategy for unleashing cancer-fighting power of p53 gene

December 13, 2017
Tumor protein p53 is one of the most critical determinants of the fate of cancer cells, as it can determine whether a cell lives or dies in response to stress. In a new study published today in the journal Nature Communications, ...

Researchers develop test that can diagnose two cancer types

December 12, 2017
A blood test using infrared spectroscopy can be used to diagnose two types of cancer, lymphoma and melanoma, according to a study led by Georgia State University.

Cancer-causing mutation suppresses immune system around tumours

December 12, 2017
Mutations in 'Ras' genes, which drive 25% of human cancers by causing tumour cells to grow, multiply and spread, can also protect cancer cells from the immune system, finds a new study from the Francis Crick Institute and ...

Atoh1, a potential Achilles' heel of Sonic Hedgehog medulloblastoma

December 12, 2017
Medulloblastoma is the most common type of solid brain tumor in children. Current treatments offer limited success and may leave patients with severe neurological side effects, including psychiatric disorders, growth retardation ...

Drug suppresses spread of breast cancer caused by stem-like cells

December 12, 2017
Rare stem-like tumor cells play a critical role in the spread of breast cancer, but a vulnerability in the pathway that powers them offers a strategy to target these cells using existing drugs before metastatic disease occurs, ...

MRI scans predict patients' ability to fight the spread of cancer

December 12, 2017
A simple, non-invasive procedure that can indicate how long patients with cancer that has spread to the brain might survive and whether they are likely to respond to immunotherapy has been developed by researchers in Liverpool.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.