Ovarian Cancer Screening Tests Found Ineffective (VIDEO)

12/18/2010 11:42 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A new study from the American Cancer Society confirms the bleak outlook for detecting ovarian cancer, known as the "silent killer" because of the challenges in diagnosing the disease early enough to treat it.

The study found that current methods of screening for ovarian cancer -- pelvic exams, ultrasounds and blood tests -- reduce the number of deaths by just 11 percent, considered only "a modest reduction" in fatality risk.

"They are not accepted screening tests per se," said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a gynecologist and medical expert for CBS's Early Show. "They are all we have."

OV cancer is hard to detect for several reasons. The location of the ovaries in the body (behind the pelvis and abdomen) cause symptoms, like indigestion and bloating, that are vague and common, and thus easily missed or misinterpreted by patients and doctors. Moreover, the blood test used to test for ovarian cancer (called CA-125) is "not even close" to 100 percent accurate, Ashton said.

Roughly 22,000 women are diagnosed with OV cancer each year and more than half will not survive the diagnosis. Until more effective screening tests are found, women must be proactive and aware of the symptoms, said Ashton. Symptoms include pelvic pain or pressure, indigestion, stomach swelling or bloating and urinary frequency. If you experience these symptoms for more than two weeks, she said, talk to your doctor and gynecologist.


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