Harvard Women's Health Watch

Large trial finds annual screening doesn't reduce deaths from ovarian cancer

Annual screening for ovarian cancer with the CA-125 blood test and transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) does not reduce a woman's risk of dying from the disease, according to the results of a large clinical trial sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Ovarian cancer is 90% curable when treated early, but most cases are diagnosed late, when the five-year survival rate is less than 30%. Nearly 14,000 women die from the disease every year.

As part of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, researchers at the University of Utah evaluated whether yearly screening could lead to earlier detection and reduce mortality. Results were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago and published online in The Journal of the American Medical Association on June 4, 2011.

The study. Investigators at 10 centers across the United States enrolled 78,216 women ages 55 to 74 who were at average risk for ovarian cancer and followed them for up to 13 years. Participants were assigned at random to either annual screening or usual medical care without screening. Women in the screening group were offered an annual CA-125 blood test (a nonspecific test for ovarian cancer) for up to six years, and TVUS annually for up to four years. The women and their physicians were informed of any suspicious abnormalities found during screening; the physicians were responsible for managing any further diagnosis and therapy.

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