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Ovarian cancer screening not saving lives

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Routine screening for ovarian cancer isn’t saving lives, a new study has concluded.

Although the tests are picking up cancers early, the women are as likely to die from ovarian cancer as those who haven’t been screened.

It’s a surprising outcome because ovarian cancer is typically not detected until it’s too late when it is harder to treat—and yet a major review of more than 200,000 women has discovered that neither blood test screening nor vaginal ultrasound scan was saving lives, even though the blood tests were picking up 39 percent more cancers at an early stage.

As a result, routine mass ovarian screening cannot be recommended in its current form, say the researchers from University College London, who make up the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS).

“To save lives, we will require a better screening test that detects ovarian cancer earlier,” said lead researcher Usha Menon.

For their review, the researchers divided up the 200,000 women—aged between 50 and 74—into one of three groups, so that some had either an annual ultrasound scan or a blood test and were measured against 100,000 of the women who didn’t have any screening over a 16-year period.  The rate of deaths from ovarian cancer were similar in all three groups.

(Source: The Lancet, 2021; doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00731-5)

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Article Topics: Cancer, Medical test
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