Screening Not Catching Early Cancer -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

Screening Not Catching Early Cancer

Photo: Woman at the doctor who uses ultrasound on her

Ultrasound led to an unnecessary
high rate of ovary removal; © SXC

The new study looked at a screening regimen that combines ultrasound and a blood test for CA-125, a marker for women’s cancer. It included more than 72,000 women aged 55 to 74. Results showed the combo screening caught 70 percent of the ovarian cancers in their late stages, when effective treatment options are limited. These findings reinforce the need for a more sensitive and more specific test, said lead researcher Edward Partridge.

Knowing this screening limitation means the search has intensified for a better way to detect ovarian cancer, often called the silent killer,” said Partridge. “We still have some comparison data to review, but right now it looks like the positive predictive value of these tests is pretty low.”

The study puts the positive predictive value for both tests at around 1.6 percent per 100 positive screening results, a remarkably low positivity rate that led to many false positives, he said. False positives are erroneous signals of cancer where there is none.

One alarming trend noted in the study is how often transvaginal ultrasound led to a high rate of unnecessary removal of the ovaries, which means no cancer was detected in these organs post-surgery. “This data suggests that we need a better screening tool,” Partridge said.

The results coincide with a British study published in March that found combo screening for ovarian cancer was extremely successful in finding early stage cancers. But that still does not mean the screens led to a reduction in the ovarian cancer death rate, reported the British study authors.; Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham