The early results suggested that approximately 15 ovarian cancer deaths could be prevented for every 10,000 women who attend a screening program that involves annual blood tests for between seven to 11 years. (Credit: "blood test" via Shutterstock)

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Can blood test reduce deaths from ovarian cancer?

Results from the largest ovarian cancer screening trial suggest that an annual screening may help reduce the number of deaths from the disease by around 20 percent.

The research, published in The Lancet, also cautions that longer follow up is needed to establish more certain estimates of how many deaths from ovarian cancer could be prevented by screening. Estimates from the results so far are promising, but the exact figures remain uncertain.

Ovarian cancer was diagnosed in 1,282 women during the 14-year UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) of more than 200,000 post-menopausal women aged 50 to 74, of whom 649 had died of the disease by the trial end in December 2014.

The study showed a delayed effect on mortality between the screening and control arms, which became significant after the first seven years of the trial. The research team is following up on the study for three more years to establish the full impact of ovarian cancer screening.

The early results suggested that approximately 15 ovarian cancer deaths could be prevented for every 10,000 women who attend a screening program that involves annual blood tests for between seven to 11 years.

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The trial also confirmed previous findings that, on average, for every three women who had surgery as a result of an abnormal screen, one woman had ovarian cancer while two women did not. For those who had surgery, around three percent had major complications, which is the standard complication rate for this type of surgery in the NHS.

“The UKCTOCS results suggest that screening can lead to early detection and saves lives,” says Professor Nazar Amso of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine. “Obviously, longer-term follow up would increase our understanding of benefit and raises more hope to millions of women at risk of ovarian cancer.”

Fiona Reddington, Cancer Research UK’s head of population research, says: “This trial has been incredibly useful in improving our understanding of ovarian cancer. Detecting it early is vital to make sure that patients have the best treatment options and that more women can survive the disease. It’s uncertain whether or not screening can reduce ovarian cancer deaths overall.

“While this is an important step in ovarian cancer research, we would not recommend a national screening program at this point.”

The Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, Department of Health, and the Eve Appeal supported the UKCTOCS.

Source: Cardiff University

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