OVARIAN CANCER SCREENING TEST
There is an exciting breakthrough reported tonight by
If you think about it, we have colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer, we have pap smears to look for cervical cancer, mammograms for breast cancer, and now we’re even using cat scans to screen for lung cancer. But we don’t have anything for ovarian cancer that’s been shown to be effective, accurate, and one which can pick up the cancer before it’s spread. That is, perhaps, until now.
Jill Strauss feels cornered. Her mom died of ovarian cancer, so she’s at risk. Doctors told Jill to have her ovaries removed…yesterday. “Which means I would go through menopause now, my sister too. I have a cousin who actually did get a hysterectomy on her doctor’s recommendation. So I’d like to prevent that,” says Jill.
Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of gynecologic cancer deaths. It’s called a silent killer because when it’s diagnosed, 75 percent of the time it has already spread to other parts of the body, making it difficult to cure. To date, there is no reliable way to screen for it, and detect it early.
“We have been working with cancer, studying cancer for 50 years, so something has to be there,” argues Dr. Gil Mor. He and his team at the Yale University School of Medicine believe they have had the eureka moment--and have found what will end up being a reliable screening test for ovarian cancer.
They painstakingly looked at all the possible proteins that have been associated with all types of cancer. Four of the proteins--stood out—linked strongly enough to ovarian cancer. They were combined into one test.
These proteins are only fair cancer markers when used individually. But when all four of them are tested at the same time and two or more of them fall within an abnormal range, then that is an accurate predictor of ovarian cancer. Overall, it’s 95% accurate in ruling in--or out—cancer, even early stage--stage one or two--ovarian cancer.
The findings are published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. “This early detection is one of the most exciting things we have so far. We believe that the markers precede cancer, but we need to prove that,” Dr. Mor claims.
This would make it ideal for jill, and even her daughter julianna, who, because of family history, is also at risk. “Instead of telling them remove their ovaries, wait a minute, come to us, we will test you,” says Dr.
"Then I could get my children tested and do the proper screening for all of the generations involved," Jill exclaims.
This is a preliminary study; the next step is to do a bigger study with more patients, focusing especially on early stage cancer and women at risk for ovarian cancer. Still, it’s a significant breakthrough that may finally break the silence of this silent killer.
For more information on this study and ovarian cancer in general: