Testing for Ovarian Cancer

Last Modified: January 9, 2005

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

Would you please let me know what is the test or examination with the most accuracy to detect ovarian cancer? How efficient is the ultrasound to detect the malignancy?

Thank you very much for your answer.

 

Answer

Christina S. Chu, MD, Assistant Professor of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

Unfortunately, there is no reliable, cost-effective screening test for early detection of ovarian cancer in the general population. For women who are at particularly high risk, such as members of hereditary ovarian cancer families, increased surveillance with physical examination, transvaginal ultrasound, and a blood test for CA125 may be performed every 6-12 months starting between the ages of 25-35. Patients with two or more first-degree relatives with ovarian cancer should undergo evaluation by a genetic counselor or gynecologic oncologist, with plans for screening individualized to each patient. Though CA125 blood tests and transvaginal ultrasounds are commonly obtained to screen for ovarian cancer, no definitive evidence exists to show that these tests can actually improve the survival of women ultimately diagnosed with the disease.