Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer death among women. It also has the highest mortality rate among gynecological cancers. Still, a government panel announced this week that women should not get routinely screened for the disease as doing so may cause more harm them good.
The conclusion itself is not news. The panel, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, made the same recommendation against routine screening in 2004. But their latest recommendation is based on the largest clinical trial published so far. According to the panel's chairperson, this study confirms previous findings.
For the current study, almost 80,000 women were evaluated - half underwent routine ovarian cancer screening with transvaginal ultrasounds and a blood test called CA-125, while other half of the women were not screened. According to the panel, routine screening made no difference in the outcome but it did put a high percentage of women at risk for false-positive tests that then require invasive testing or even major surgery to treat.
Bottom line: Better screening tools need to be developed for the early detection of ovarian cancer. But until then, if you don't have symptoms or a family history of the disease, you should avoid routine screening.