Each year, hundreds of women in Ohio receive the devastating news that they have ovarian cancer. What’s perhaps even worse is that many of these women don’t actually have the disease and go through unnecessary operations with high complication rates.
That’s why a panel of medical experts has recommended that these tests not be performed on otherwise healthy women. The doctors concluded that there is currently not a test that helps to lower the death rate from the disease, so the harm caused by misdiagnosis and overtreatment outweighs the benefits of the testing.
In issuing its recommendation this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the United States Preventive Services Task Force joins other groups such as the American Cancer Society and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in discouraging the ovarian cancer tests.
The tests are conducted by looking for a substance linked to ovarian cancer in a blood sample and using ultrasound scans to examine the ovaries. Some doctors recommend the tests, and some women ask for them, believing that they might offer a way to detect and treat ovarian cancer before it turns life threatening.
However, the panel said that its recommendation against the screenings was based on a large study showing that the death rate caused by ovarian cancer was no lower among the women who were screened for the disease than it was among the women who were not screened for the disease.
Additionally, nearly 10 percent of women who were screened encountered false-positive test results. Some of these women ended up going through dangerous surgeries and treatments that were unnecessary.
Ovarian cancer is known for turning deadly at a rapid pace. The American Cancer Society projects that 22,280 women in the United States will develop the disease this year and 15,500 women will die of the disease.
Doctors say the best way to catch ovarian cancer early when it is still treatable is by noticing symptoms like persistent bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, loss of appetite and frequent urination.
Source: The New York Times, “Ovarian cancer screenings are not effective, panel says,” Denise Grady, Sept. 10, 2012