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Quick Survey May Pick Up Ovarian Cancer Warnings: Study

In the absence of reliable screening tool, questionnaire might aid early detection

FRIDAY, Sept. 28 (HealthDay News) -- A simple three-question survey might identify women who have symptoms that may indicate ovarian cancer, according to a new study.

The two-minute paper-and-pencil questionnaire can be given in a doctor's office and checks for six warning signs that may improve early detection of ovarian cancer, according to researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

The survey asks women if they are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms: abdominal and/or pelvic pain; feeling full quickly and/or unable to eat normally; abdominal bloating and/or increased abdomen size. It also asks about the frequency and duration of these symptoms.

The study included 1,200 women, ages 40 to 87, who completed the questionnaire. Five percent had a positive symptom score that indicated the need for further tests. Of this group of about 60 women, one was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Of the 95 percent of women who had a negative symptom score, none developed ovarian cancer during one year of follow-up.

The study was published online in the September issue of the Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Early detection of ovarian cancer greatly increases the likelihood of survival. Cure rates for women diagnosed when the disease is confined to the ovary are 70 percent to 90 percent. However, more than 70 percent of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed with advanced-stage disease, when the survival rate is only 20 percent to 30 percent according to a Hutchinson news release.

"Women with symptoms that are frequent, continual and new to them in the past year should talk to their doctor, as they may be candidates for further evaluation with ultrasound and blood tests that measure markers of ovarian cancer such as CA-125," study lead author M. Robyn Andersen said in the release.

"Recent research indicates that approximately one in 140 women with symptoms may have ovarian cancer. Aggressive follow-up of these symptoms can lead to diagnosis when ovarian cancer can be caught earlier and more effectively treated," she noted.

The authors said that until better biological screening tools are developed, collecting information about symptoms appears to have promise.

This year, the U.S. National Cancer Institute estimates that more than 22,000 women will receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis and that roughly 15,500 women will die of the disease.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about early diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

SOURCE: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, news release, Sept. 21, 2012

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