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Breast Cancer

A Need for Earlier Ovarian Cancer Detection 

Dr. Saba Alzabin
January 20, 2019 . 2 min read

The lack of specific symptoms continues to be a driving factor in the late diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Only 20% of cases are detected early, and this is due to ineffective screening strategies to date.  

To highlight the importance of early detection, the overall 5-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is 47%, but this becomes 92% when detected early.  There is promising evidence that the serum levels of a naturally occurring protein, CA-125, are elevated in the blood of women with ovarian cancer.  However, this is only statistically significant in late stage ovarian cancer and high serum levels of CA-125 are also associated with non-related conditions such as endometriosis and inflammatory pelvic disorder.  Whilst higher than normal levels of CA-125 may be used as a marker for reproductive disorders, a transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) remains the most reliable test for specific ovarian cancer detection.

Further research is needed for more accurate and early screening strategies to improve ovarian cancer prognosis.


  • Jacobs, I J, et al. “Ovarian Cancer Screening and Mortality in the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS): a Randomised Controlled Trial.” Lancet, vol. 387, 5 Mar. 2016, pp. 945–956., doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01224-6.
  • Menon, U, et al. “Risk Algorithm Using Serial Biomarker Measurements Doubles the Number of Screen-Detected Cancers Compared With a Single-Threshold Rule in the United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening.” Journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 33, no. 18, 20 June 2015, pp. 2062–2071., doi: 10.1200/JCO.2014.59.4945.
  • Survival Rates for Ovarian Cancer, by Stage. American Cancer Society, Last reviewed: 11/4/2018.
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