New blood test for early stage ovarian cancer

Australian researchers say they have developed an accurate blood test to detect the first stages of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer in its early stages is not easy to detect as symptoms are often vague and similar to other less sinister conditions, and there lies the problem. By the time the symptoms become more obvious the condition is usually at the advanced stage; each year in Australia more than 1,200 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and more than 800 women die from it.

This means that over 70 per cent of women are diagnosed at an advanced stage, where the cancer has spread and is very difficult to treat successfully.

Professor Greg Rice from the Women's Cancer Foundation says the test has around a 94 per cent accuracy rate but will need to be at least 99 per cent accurate to attract government subsidies.

The test says Professor Rice is a different type of blood test which measures five substances in blood, and has a better diagnostic accuracy, particularly for early stage ovarian cancer.

Professor Rice believes the test will probably cost in the range of $100 to $200 and will be available within six months.

While that may initially appear expensive, in terms of identifying those at risk of ovarian cancer, and thereby potentially saving lives, Professor Rice says it is not costly.

Experts advise women to be aware of the symptoms and risk factors and contact their doctor if they are concerned.

Symptoms can include abdominal bloating/feeling full, appetite loss, unexplained weight gain, constipation, heartburn, back pain, urinary frequency, abdominal/pelvic pain and fatigue.

Risk factors are, increasing age with approximately 80 per cent of cases occurring in women aged 50 years and over; a family history of ovarian cancer with the risk increasing with the increasing number of first degree relatives affected.

However hereditary links only appear to account for about 5-10% of all cases and other factors that may cause ovarian cancer are unclear.

A Pap smear cannot will not detect ovarian cancer and there are currently no accepted methods for population screening and also no known means of preventing ovarian cancer.

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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