LiveScience.com is reporting on the results of a new study, published in the journal Cancer on August 26, which suggests that a new screening test for ovarian cancer has an accuracy rate of 99.9 percent. The new test could ultimately become a part of routine screening for women.
The study participants included over 4000 women over an 11-year period. During annual blood tests, researchers monitored the levels of CA-125 protein; a protein produced by the majority of ovarian tumors. Participants who experienced sudden increases in their levels of CA-125 were referred to a gynecologist and received an ultrasound.
During the study period, 10 women underwent surgery based upon the ultrasound results. Four of the women had early stage ovarian cancers, while five had tumors that were either non-cancerous or had the potential to become cancerous. One woman had endometrial cancer. Additionally, two women in the study had tumors that were not detected by the screening, but had a low risk for malignancy potential.
Previous studies have examined whether the measuring of a woman's CA-125 protein levels, but the test was found to not be accurate enough to detect all cases of disease. The new screening test differs from ones in the past because it tracks changes in the protein levels as opposed to looking only at a high level based upon the average of an entire population.
Dr. Karen Lu, study researcher and professor of gynecological oncology at the University of Texas, said in a statement, "The results from our study are not practice-changing at this time. However, our findings suggest that using a longitudinal (or change over time) screening strategy may be beneficial in postmenopausal women with an average risk of developing ovarian cancer". The researchers are awaiting the study results from a larger and randomized study that is currently taking place in the United Kingdom using the same strategy for screening. Those results are due to be released in 2015. Dr. Lu said, "If the results of this study are also positive, then this will result in a change in practice."
Ovarian cancer remains a lethal disease due, in part, because it is usually diagnosed in late stages. The hope for this new testing strategy is early detection. Women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in it's early stages have a 75 to 90 percent survival rate after a five-year period. Currently, there are no screening tests for ovarian cancer.