Even the best available screening tests only slightly reduce deaths from ovarian cancer, according to researched published online by the American Cancer Society. Strategies such as prevention and better treatments are crucial to significantly lowering the number of women who die from the disease.
Screening programs for ovarian cancer do not save a significant number of lives because the disease is uncommon and tends to grow without causing symptoms, according to researchers who published their work online in Cancer, the peer-reviewed journal of the ACS.
The researchers used a computer-based model of the progression of ovarian cancer from early to late stages. The model accounted for the varying speeds in the progressions of different ovarian cancers, some of which may remain in the early stages for some time while others spread rapidly as they enter advanced stages.
If we assume ovarian cancers grow and spread at different rates, the best screening strategy available will only reduce the number of women dying from this cancer by 11%, Laura Havrilesky, MD, MHSc, of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., said in a news release. This is partially because the slower-growing cancers are more likely to be caught by a screening test.
Until the development of more sensitive screening tests, according to the researchers, methods that focus on prevention and treatment are especially crucial.
In an editorial that accompanied the article, Patricia Hartage, MA, ScD, of the National Cancer Institute, said women who are at a higher risk for developing ovarian cancer may benefit more from screening. Targeted screening, therefore, may be worthwhile in the fight against ovarian cancer. Ongoing randomized clinical trials will provide valuable evidence, Hartage said.
To view the study results, go to http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.25624/abstract.