Trials find nine out of ten tumours
Screening for ovarian cancer picked up 90 per cent of cases of the ‘silent killer’ making widespread testing feasible scientists said.
Ovarian cancer is very difficult to detect early because of vague symptoms leading many experts to call it the silent killer. There are around 7,000 cases of ovarian cancer in the UK each year and about 4,500 deaths.
Scientists at University College London carried out the largest ever randomised trial of ovarian screening tests. They used blood tests to detect a protein that is produced by some ovarian tumours combined with ultrasound or ultrasound alone. The study involved 202,638 women aged between 50 and 74 who were recruited from across the UK between 2001 and 2005. The study is ongoing and the women will be testing until 2012 and followed up until 2014.
Almost half of the cancers detected were in the early stages when they are considered most treatable and normally without screening only around 28 per cent are found at this stage.
Peter Reynolds, Chief Executive, Ovarian Cancer Action, said: ‘The initial findings of this long-term study are encouraging, particularly because almost half of the ovarian cancers detected were at an early stage (stage 1), when survival rates can be as high as 90 per cent.
‘However, the trial still has several years until completion and the researchers will need to assess mortality rates to get a clearer idea of how effectively these screening methods translate into saving lives.’