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Symptoms Poor Predictors of Ovarian Cancer

Study finds symptoms would likely diagnose one in 100 of the general population

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Despite a recent consensus statement encouraging use of certain symptoms in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer, symptoms such as abdominal pain or urinary urgency are poor predictors of the disease, particularly early-stage disease, according to a study published online Jan. 28 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Mary Anne Rossing, Ph.D., and colleagues from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle interviewed 812 women (aged 35 to 74 years) diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer, and 1,313 matched healthy women, regarding the presence and timing of certain symptoms identified in a consensus statement as predicting ovarian cancer.

The researchers found that most women with ovarian cancer reported pelvic or abdominal pain or bloating, feeling full, or urinary urgency or frequency within five months before diagnosis. Excluding nausea, women with early-stage cancer were somewhat less likely to have symptoms than women with late-stage cancer. The positive predictive value of the symptoms was 0.6 to 1.1 percent overall, but less than 0.5 percent for early-stage disease.

"Use of symptoms to trigger medical evaluation for ovarian cancer is likely to result in diagnosis of the disease in only one of 100 women in the general population with such symptoms," Rossing and colleagues conclude. "The low positive predictive value of symptoms to detect ovarian cancer -- particularly at an early stage -- argues for a cautious approach to the use of symptom patterns to trigger extensive medical evaluation for ovarian cancer."

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