Detection of Ovarian CancerOvarian cancer ranks fifth in the causes for cancer death among women. According to the reports from the American Cancer Society, about 21,290 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer and about 14,180 women will die from the disease in 2015. Early detection makes early treatment possible.

The transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) and the CA-125 blood test are the two tests typically used to screen for ovarian cancer. Medical News Today reports that researchers from University College London (UCL) have demonstrated a new screening method that uses blood tests to detect ovarian cancer. This new test tracks changing levels of a protein called CA125 which can predict cancer in blood. The researchers say that the test can detect twice as many ovarian cancers than conventional methods.

The test uses a statistical calculation to interpret the variations in CA125. The researchers say that tracking how the levels of the CA125 protein change over time may provide an early signal to detect tumors. In the clinical trial, the new method correctly diagnosed 86 percent of women with invasive epithelial ovarian cancer, while conventional tests detected only 41-66 percent.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, was based on an evaluation of 46,237 women who continued to receive annual multimodal screening. Of the total women diagnosed,

  • 640 women had surgery for suspected ovarian cancer based on their risk level
  • 133 were found to have invasive cancer, and
  • 22 were diagnosed with ovarian cancer within a year of their last yearly screening

With further research, it is likely that the test can be used clinically for high-risk women, possibly for women with symptoms.

Blood tests for cancer should be interpreted carefully. For instance, it is pointed out that women can have higher levels of CA125 in their blood than the cut-off point fixed by conventional methods and not have ovarian cancer, while others with lower levels of the protein can still develop the disease.

Reliable results are critical in blood testing to prevent misdiagnosis, delayed treatment and increased costs due to retesting, and in this matter, the responsibility rests with the clinical laboratory. The laboratory that performs the tests should meet rigorous state and federal regulatory standards. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the development and marketing of all laboratory tests that use test kits and laboratory equipment that are commercially manufactured in the U.S. Also, the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) ensures that laboratory staff is appropriately trained and the testing laboratories have quality control programs to ensure accurate and reliable test results.