NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new study suggests that
ovarian cancer screening with a technique called transvaginal
ultrasonography (TVS) may catch ovarian cancer early, at a more
TVS involves using an ultrasound probe placed in the vagina
to direct sound waves through the vaginal wall towards the
ovaries to detect abnormalities. The new study shows that TVS
screening is able to detect ovarian cancers at an earlier
stage, perhaps increasing their chances of survival.
The early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is difficult and the
disease is often not detected until it has reached an advanced
stage. Compared with other gynecologic cancers, ovarian cancer
carries a very poor prognosis.
Dr. John R. van Nagell, from the University of Kentucky in
Lexington, and colleagues assessed the value of annual TVS
screening for ovarian cancer in 25,327 women who were seen
between 1987 and 2005.
To be eligible for the study, the women had to be at least
50 years old with no cancer-related symptoms or at least 25
years old with a family history of ovarian cancer.
Overall, 364 women (1.4 percent) had a persistent ovarian
tumor on TVS, the authors report in the journal Cancer.
Malignant cases included 35 primary invasive ovarian cancers, 9
ovarian tumors of low malignant potential, and 7 "metastatic"
cancers that had already spread beyond the ovaries. Most of the
contained or "non-metastatic" ovarian tumors were early stage I
During an average follow-up of about 5 years, 38 women were
alive and well, 4 had died of their cancer, and 2 had died from
The 2-year survival rate in annually TVS screened women
approached 90 percent and the 5-year survival rate in screened
women was a little over 77 percent.
TVS screening was highly sensitive and specific in
detecting ovarian cancer. However, "false-negative" results
were obtained in nine women, including three who died of their
disease, the investigators note.
Summing up, the researchers say early detection of ovarian
cancer could potentially improve treatment efficacy and reduce
deaths. "The protective effect of annual sonographic screening
on ovarian cancer mortality observed in the current trial
should only increase as more specific biomarkers are added to
TVS in screening algorithms," they conclude.
SOURCE: Cancer, May 1, 2007.