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Symptom Index May Identify Ovarian Cancer

Index based on self-reported symptoms

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) -- A symptom index based on self-reported symptoms can be a useful tool in identifying women with ovarian cancer, according to the results of a study published online Dec. 11 in Cancer.

Barbara A. Goff, M.D., from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, and colleagues compared 23 self-reported symptoms in 149 women with ovarian cancer, including 255 women in an ovarian cancer screening program, and 233 women referred for a pelvic/abdominal ultrasound. Women in each group were randomly divided into an exploratory group and confirmatory group for comparison.

The researchers found significant independent associations between cancer and pelvic or abdominal pain, increased abdominal size or bloating, and difficulty eating or feeling full. A positive symptom index was defined as having any of these symptoms more than 12 times per month for less than a year. The index was 56.7 percent and 79.5 percent sensitive for early and advanced disease, respectively, with specificities of 86.7 percent to 90 percent depending on age.

"The ovarian cancer survivor community has long espoused using symptoms to help identify the presence of disease while we await development and validation of an effective diagnostic panel or screening tool," Sherry S. Black, M.B.A., from the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance in Washington, D.C., and colleagues write in an accompanying editorial.

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