Questionnaire plus Blood Test Advisable

Research has found that when used alone, a simple four-question symptom-screening questionnaire and the CA125 ovarian-cancer blood test each detect about 60 percent of women with early-stage ovarian cancer and 80 percent of those with late-stage disease. This study found that when used together, the questionnaire and blood test may boost early-detection rates to more than 80 percent and late-stage detection rates to more than 95 percent.

For the just-published study, the researchers administered the symptom questionnaire to 75 women about to undergo surgery for pelvic masses who were later diagnosed with ovarian cancer (the case group), and 254 healthy women at high risk for ovarian cancer due to a family history of the disease (the control group).

"This research suggests that if a woman has one or more symptoms that are new for her, having begun within the past year, and if the symptoms happen nearly daily or at least 12 times a month, that may well be a signal to go in and discuss those symptoms with her doctor," said lead author M. Robyn Andersen from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. "It's probably not going to be ovarian cancer, just as most breast lumps are not breast cancer, but it's still a sign that it might be worth checking with her doctor to see if a CA125 blood test and transvaginal ultrasound may be appropriate." Symptoms could be abdominal or pelvic pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and abdominal bloating.

Assessing the symptoms included in the symptom-screening index may already be done by some doctors based on a consensus statement issued last year by the National Institutes of Health. The researchers hope their symptom index will help doctors know which among their patients who complain of symptoms such as abdominal swelling and pelvic pain might have cancer.; Source: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center