Transvaginal Ultrasounds, Blood Tests Effective In Screening For Ovarian Cancer
Although a blood test and a transvaginal ultrasound have "weak results" for "screening large unselected populations" for ovarian cancer, studies have shown "encouraging results" in detecting early-stage ovarian cancer in "high-risk" groups of women, Ilan Timor and John Curtin, professors of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University's School of Medicine, write in a New York Times letter to the editor in response to a June 19 Times editorial (Timor/Curtin, New York Times, 6/25).
The editorial said that the "real value" of recommendations from the American Cancer Society, Gynecologic Cancer Foundation and Society of Gynecologic Oncologists for identifying symptoms that could signal early stages of ovarian cancer might be to "raise awareness" of the disease among physicians and their patients. The groups are calling on women who experience the symptoms -- which include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and a frequent or urgent need to urinate -- every day for two to three weeks to see a gynecologist. The recommendations are expected to be formally announced on June 25. According to the editorial, a blood test and a transvaginal ultrasound are "notoriously inaccurate," and many women still might "opt for surgery to remove the ovary, just to be sure" (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/19).
Timor and Curtin write that the tests are not "notoriously inaccurate," adding that a transvaginal ultrasound has an "undisputed" diagnostic value. According to the authors, "In the setting of a symptomatic patient, where the diagnosis of ovarian cancer is a possibility, transvaginal ultrasound is probably the most appropriate test" (New York Times, 6/25).
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