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Why Screen for Ovarian Cancer?

Research has shown that screening is very good at detecting cancers before they cause symptoms. In addition, cancers detected by screening tend to be found at earlier stages than cancers occurring in women who have not had screening. If the disease is detected before it has spread extensively around a woman’s abdomen (Stage 3), survival rates are much higher, and cure is possible.

What can ovarian cancer screening achieve?

Based on research involving hundreds of thousands of women, we know that ovarian cancer screening can detect the cancer in at least 8 out of every 10 women before they have symptoms.

We also know that women who undergo screening have their cancers detected at an earlier stage (when they have spread less widely). There is also some evidence that women at high risk of ovarian cancer who have regular screening are more likely to have all their cancer removed by surgery compared with those not undergoing regular screening. We do not as yet know for certain whether or not screening detects ovarian cancer early enough to save lives, but early indications are that it might be able to save the lives of around one in five women who develop ovarian cancer.

The only way to prevent ovarian cancer is to have the fallopian tubes and ovaries removed surgically. For this reason, the current recommendation is that women confirmed to be at high risk of ovarian cancer consider this surgical option once their family is complete and they are prepared to take hormone replacement therapy if recommended. Until women at high risk are ready for the surgical option, we recommend they consider being screened using the ROCA® Test three times a year and an ultrasound scan once a year.

We are leading the research

A major randomised control trial called UKCTOCS (UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening), led by Prof. Ian Jacobs, Director of the Ovarian Cancer Screening Centre, screened over 200,000 postmenopausal women ages 50-85 for ovarian cancer.

Based on the preliminary results of the trial, we can state the following:

  • Screening picks up at least 8 out of every 10 ovarian cancers, usually before they cause symptoms
  • The number of ovarian cancers detected at an earlier stage have increased as a result of screening
  • Screening with the ROCA® Clinical Triage is able to predict the absence of ovarian cancer in 99.8% of cases.  With such a low false positive rate, fewer women will undergo unnecessary surgical procedures
  • One in five lives can potentially be saved by screening, but further follow-up of the women in the study is needed to confirm these results