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Ovarian Cancer Screenings Show Low Positivity Rate

Results suggest that regular screenings may not be beneficial in detection of early cancers

TUESDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- In older women, regular screening for ovarian cancer has a low positivity rate, suggesting that existing technology is not beneficial in the detection of early cancer, according to research published in the April issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Edward Partridge, M.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, and colleagues studied 34,261 women aged 55 to 74 without prior oophorectomy eligible for screening with a combination of CA 125 and transvaginal ultrasonography. Of these subjects, 30,630 received at least one screen during the four-year study.

The researchers found that positivity results of both tests were low: 0.12 percent at year one, 0.08 percent at years two and three, 0.05 percent at year four. During the study, 89 patients were diagnosed with invasive cancer, but only 60 (67 percent) of the cases were screen-detected. Seventy-two percent of the screen-detected cancers were stage III or IV, indicating that the screening effort did not change the expected stage distribution from that of a normal unscreened population, the report indicates.

"Based on these data and existing data, screening the general population for ovarian cancer with the combination of these two tests will not be beneficial," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "Unfortunately, we continue not to have a good screening algorithm for this disease. Clearly, more research with the development of new and better technologies is needed if we are going to help identify patients with ovarian cancer at an earlier stage. At present, the final verdict must be 'not to screen' the general population."

One author of the study disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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