A new ovarian cancer test could save lives

Scientists have developed a new test for ovarian cancer. As the BBC reports, in future it should make it easier for doctors to recommend the right treatment.

Researchers from Imperial College London and University of Leuven in Belgium worked together on the new testing protocol, using blood tests and ultrasound scans, as well as patients’ health records.

The test uses a combination of patient information, blood test results and ultrasound scans to predict the malignancy, type and stage of the cancer. The aim is to better differentiate between cysts and cancerous tumours, and if there is a tumour, to find out how aggressive it is. The scientists say that many women are not getting the right treatment, in part because there is currently no screening process in place other than asking patients about their symptoms.

Some people are unnecessarily having an ovary removed, which could make it harder for them to conceive. Other women are not being diagnosed quickly enough. Early diagnosis is especially crucial with this form of cancer. Over 7000 women are diagnosed in the UK each year. If it’s found early, they have a 90% chance of survival, but this drops to 22% when the disease has advanced.

The new test has been extensively trialled: first the scientists looked at patient data from 3506 patients who were treated between 1999 and 2007. Then they tested their new protocol on 2403 patients from 2009 to 2012. Cancer charities have welcomed news of this new diagnostic tool. The chief executive of Ovarian Cancer Action, Katherine Taylor said it was ‘very much needed’.

Image By Nephron via Wikimedia Commons.

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Diane Shipley