Cancer is one of the leading causes of death among Americans today, particularly ovarian cancer when it comes to women.
Why is it difficult to treat and detect ovarian cancer?
Is there a better detection method today?
CBS news reports on a new blood test for ovarian cancer. A group of researchers are saying that ovarian cancer can be detected earlier through a blood test.
Ovarian cancer is known as one of the most difficult cancers to detect. The symptoms for the cancer often do not show until it is in its third stage, and even then the symptoms sometimes resemble other less serious things like a virus. Women often start to experience loss of appetite, weakness, stomach issues and sometimes vomiting.
Statistics show that ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in the United States today. The American Cancer Society updates these numbers every year. Now experts are saying these figures can go down by incorporating a simple blood test into the prevention plan. The new test is predicted to be able to detect twice as many women than current methods do.
CBS explains, “In the largest trial of its kind, researchers from University College London used a statistical approach to interpret the change in levels in women's blood of the protein CA125, which is linked to ovarian cancer.”
How was the study conducted?
It lasted over 14 years. Researchers looked at almost 50,000 post menopausal women to get comprehensive results. The blood of these women was tested once a year to see what their CA125 levels were.
Next researchers used a computer algorithm to interpret each woman's threat of ovarian cancer based on factors including their age, original levels of CA125 and how that level changed over time. Scientists noted that if levels became higher, women were then sent for further testing.
What were the results?
The researchers found that regular blood tests using this method could detect 86 percent of ovarian cancers earlier than when women are typically diagnosed. The results, which were part of the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS), the world's biggest ovarian cancer screening trial, have been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Prof. Usha Menon, UKCTOCS co-principal investigator and the trial coordinator spoke about the study in a press release. She talked about how there is currently no national screening program for ovarian cancer.
“These results are therefore very encouraging. They show that use of an early detection strategy based on an individual's CA125 profile significantly improved cancer detection compared to what we've seen in previous screening trials,” according to Menon.
What are the major differences between the new method and the old ones?
There are similar previous ovarian cancer screening methods that have used a fixed point test for levels of CA125 in the blood to detect a possible abnormality. But, the fixed point test only catches 41 to 48 percent of ovarian cancers and does not detect the remaining. It also fails to take into account other factors that could detect whether a woman will develop cancer at some point.
CBS reports, “The American Cancer Society estimates that about 21,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015 and 14,000 will die from the disease.”