Ovarian Cancer Screening Still Ineffective, Not Recommended: Panel

From Drugs.com - February 13, 2018

Ovarian Cancer Screening Still Ineffective, Not Recommended: Panel

TUESDAY, Feb. 13, 2018 -- Screening for ovarian cancer is not recommended for women with no signs or symptoms of the disease, newly released guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force say.

That represents no change in advice from the 2012 guidelines or the task force's draft recommendations issued in the summer of 2017.

"Evidence shows that current screening methods do not prevent women from dying of ovarian cancer and that screening can lead to unnecessary surgery in women without cancer," task force member Dr. Michael Barry said in a task force news release. He's a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a director of the Informed Medical Decisions Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.

No major U.S. medical or public health organization recommends screening for ovarian cancer.

However, the task force recommendation does not apply to women at high risk for ovarian cancer. That includes those with a BRCA gene mutation that is associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect because it often causes no signs or symptoms in the early stages. Also, many symptoms are vague and similar to those of other health problems. This means that the disease is often diagnosed in the late stages, when it is harder to treat.

However, results from screening tests could prompt a woman to have surgery to remove one or both ovaries when those results could be so-called "false positive." That means the tests indicate the woman has cancer when, in fact, she does not.

Dr. Stephanie Blank, a professor of gynecologic oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, said she generally agrees with the task force recommendations "because we do not have an effective screening test."

However, she said, "because screening for ovarian cancer is not effective, it is extremely important that women be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and advocate for themselves."

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