Researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have revealed that a simple blood test as well as early screening will be able to increase early detection of ovarian cancer by 20 percent.
Symptoms linked to ovarian cancer include abdominal or pelvic pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and abdominal bloating.
The researchers have found that when used alone, a simple four-question symptom-screening questionnaire and the CA125 ovarian-cancer blood test each detect about 60 percent of women with early-stage ovarian cancer and 80 percent of those with late-stage disease.
And if used together, the questionnaire and blood test may heighten chances of early-detection to more than 80 percent and late-stage detection rates to more than 95 percent.
"Of course, it is the increase in the detection of early-stage disease that is the most exciting," said lead author M. Robyn Andersen, Ph.D., an associate member of the Public Health Sciences Division at the Hutchinson Center.
It was also discovered that cure rates were almost 70 percent to 90 percent for those diagnosed when the disease is confined to the ovary. But, over 70 percent of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed with advanced-stage disease, when the survival rate is only 20 percent to 30 percent.
"This research suggests that if a woman has one or more symptoms that are new for her, having begun within the past year, and if the symptoms happen nearly daily or at least 12 times a month, that may well be a signal to go in and discuss those symptoms with her doctor. It's probably not going to be ovarian cancer, just as most breast lumps are not breast cancer, but it's still a sign that it might be worth checking with her doctor to see if a CA125 blood test and transvaginal ultrasound may be appropriate," said Andersen.
The researchers hope their symptom index will help doctors know which among their patients who complain of symptoms such as abdominal swelling and pelvic pain might have cancer.
The study is published online in Cancer.