Women at risk of ovarian cancer should undergo regular testing

05 March 2017

Women at high risk of ovarian cancer could catch it early by having a blood test every four months, new research has found.

While many women susceptible to the disease and carry the BRCA gene, like Angelina Jolie, are advised to have their ovaries removed, there may be a new way to prevent things worsening without undergoing the operation and becoming infertile.

Experts at University College London tested 4,000 women with more than a 10 per cent change of being diagnosed with the disease. Having checked up on them every four months with a blood test for protein CA 125, nine out of 10 cases of cancer were caught before they spread.

Although researchers note surgery is the safest bet to prevent the disease spreading, they are hopeful at what this new method could mean for women.

“The screening appears to be very effective at detecting ovarian cancer before it causes symptoms,” researcher Dr. Adam Rosenthal said. “The proportion of women who had all their tumours removed was very high, which is important in terms of predicting a better outcome.”

Meanwhile, co-author Professor Usha Menon added that the test appears to be a stronger option than the National Health Service’s (NHS) symptom awareness scheme, advising patients on what to look out for, as well as being better than an annual screening.

Having ovaries and fallopian tubes removed is mostly recommended when there’s a case of the mutated BRCA1 gene, increasing the chances of ovarian cancer from 1.3 per cent to 39 per cent. However, this isn’t the only gene which ups the danger as over recent years a number of other genes have been discovered, including mutations of BRCA2, RAD51C and RAD51D. Over 7,000 cases are diagnosed in Britain each year alone, 4,300 of which result in death.

Athena Lamnisos, chief executive of The Eve Appeal, a cancer charity which co-funded the study, explained how stressful it can be for women and their families knowing they’re at high risk of cancer and praised the new findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, for giving them hope.

However, Jo Stanford, cancer prevention officer at research charity Ovarian Cancer Action and a carrier of the BRCA1 gene, pointed out that the research isn’t concrete enough yet to rely on.

© Cover Media

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