Simple Test For Ovarian Cancer Unlikely

Dec 13, 2010

Researchers have been looking for a way to screen women for ovarian cancer, and find it early. But a Duke researcher warns it might not be so simple.

Ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly cancers, in part because it's often found in its late stages. There's already a blood test, plus ultrasound... but the protocol's not that accurate. 

Duke gynecologist Laura Havrilesky says one reason why screening doesn't work so well is that ovarian cancer isn't just one disease, but many. And the dangerous cancers grow fast.

"The cancers that grow more slowly are also the ones that are more likely to be diagnosed by screening. Because they’re just sitting around at stage one for a longer time. And if they’re just sitting around at stage one and you diagnose them, those are the cancers that probably weren’t going to kill the person anyway. So screening will preferentially find the cancers that maybe... were not going to kill the person."

And Havrilesky says it's unlikely scientists will find a simple blood test that can screen for all forms of the disease.