Unlike the breast cancer, where mammograms are used for screening, the option is narrowly limited, as only pelvic examination can detect ovarian cancer, that too only if the disease is in the advanced stage.
However, the combination of a thorough pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound and a blood test for the tumor marker CA125 should be offered to women who are at high risk of ovarian cancer.
Promising research conducted at the University of South Florida and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute on a specific protein in the urine may lead to a more sensitive screening test in the future for women with ovarian cancer.
In this pilot study, urinary samples from 18 normal, healthy volunteers, 38 women with benign gynecologic disease and 35 patients in various stages of ovarian cancer were tested for levels of the Bcl-2 protein. The levels of Bcl-2 found in patients with ovarian cancer were ten times higher than that of the healthy volunteers or women with benign disease. Elevated Bcl-2 levels were associated with 92% of ovarian cancers, while blood levels from the CA125 only identified 68% of ovarian cancer patients.
The researchers are in the process of requesting funding to conduct clinical trials, thus expanding the sample size and working toward providing a safe, non-invasive, economical detection method for ovarian cancer.