Saundra Buys, MD, Christine Berg MD Report Ovarian Cancer Screening Ineffective in Preventing Deaths 

Screening of ovarian cancer

Screening of ovarian cancer

As reported in Reuters and tons of other media outlets,

“Women screened annually for ovarian cancer were just as likely to die from the disease as women who didn’t have regular screening.” This startling conclusion was reported in a new study  concludes a large new study that found screening did not catch the cancers earlier as it is intended to do.”

The results of the study were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in June 2011. The paper was authored by  several researchers of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial  including First Author Saundra S. Buys, MD and study lead Christine Berg, MD.

According to the National Cancer Institute, out of 72 women only 1 woman will get ovarian cancer. Symptoms can be seen only at that time when the cancer has spread and is at an advanced stage, which is very difficult to treat. Doctors hoped that the regular screening of women would help to diagnose ovarian cancer.

Details of the Clinical Study

  • Study Context :Screening for ovarian cancer with cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) and transvaginal ultrasound has an unknown effect on mortality.
  • Study Objective: To evaluate the effect of screening for ovarian cancer on mortality
  • Doctor Berg and her colleagues divided approximately  75,000 women into 2 equal-sized groups. Out of which, one group got Yearly screening for ovarian cancer between 1993 and 2001 along with blood tests and ultrasounds, and the other group didn’t.
  • Results
    • Most of the women screened annually had surgeries to remove their ovaries and faced complication related to false positive test results, even when they actually didn’t have cancer.
    • Annual screening kills most women within 5 years of their diagnosis.
    • With the help of questionnaires and a national registry of deaths, the researchers studied that how many women were found with ovarian cancer and how many died due to it. In each group out of 34000 women 212 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 118 of them died with this disease. The group that didn’t get regular screening done had 176 women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer, out of which 100 died. In both the groups more than three quarters of women who were found with ovarian cancer were at stage 3 or 4.
    • Berg recorded a set of 3000 cases, out of which 1000 women who didn’t have ovarian cancer already had a surgery done to remove the ovaries because of a positive result while the diagnoses of ovarian cancer, but those surgeries resulted in serious complication like infection or cardiovascular.

At the end Dr. Christine Berg and the PLCO team concluded that the women who are at high risk of having ovarian cancer should consult a specialist for treatment, but a regular screening is not necessary. Doctor Christine Berg said that if the ovarian cancer is found at stage 1, the person has 85 to 90 percent chances of survival. But the question regarding the treatment of cancer at stage 3 or 4 remains unanswered.
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