New test can eliminate need for surgery to diagnose ovarian cancer

Washington: Researchers have developed a novel blood test called biomarker test that offers the possibility of more precise diagnostics of ovarian cancer without the need for surgery.

Biomarker test is based on analysis of 11 proteins and is performed on a blood sample where ultrasound indicates abnormalities to identify women without cancer.

As majority of women who undergo surgery for suspected ovarian cancer do not have cancer, this research could lead to a reduction in unnecessary surgery and in earlier detection and treatment for affected women.

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Ovarian cancer is often discovered at a late stage and has a high mortality rate. Out of 10 patients, only 3-4 survive 5 years after treatment, and there has been no test specific enough to justify screening, reported the study published in the Journal of Communications Biology.

Women with accidental findings of an ovarian cyst or with symptoms instead undergo an ultrasound and if abnormalities are seen, surgery is the only way to make sure all cancers are detected. This means that many women are operated on without having cancer, resulting in unnecessary surgery and increased risks for women.

“We need to develop more accurate pre-surgery diagnostics. To detect one cancer, we operate on up to five women – yet this is currently the best option when abnormalities are detected by ultrasound and cancer is suspected. There is a great need for a simple blood test that could identify women who do not need surgery,” said one of the researchers, Karin Sundfeldt.

For cases in which physicians chose to operate, the cancer rate could increase from one in five to one in three. This would greatly reduce unnecessary surgery and the risk of complications related to surgery.

The biomarker profile can also detect borderline cases and early stages of the disease.

“Our results are promising enough to consider screening for early discovery of ovarian cancer. In Sweden, we have long experience of screening for cervical cancer. I see great prospects of developing a strategy for screening for ovarian cancer as well, which could save lives and minimise the need for surgery to rule out cancer,” said Ulf Gyllensten, another researcher of the study.


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