Ovarian cancer is often referred to as a silent killer, coming to the attention of physicians only at its late stages when prognosis is poor. But according to a UC Davis study, four in 10 women with ovarian cancer have symptoms that they tell their doctors about at least four months and as long as one year before they are diagnosed. The study appeared in the Oct. 1, 2005 issue of Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
"Our findings suggest that ovarian cancer could be diagnosed earlier in some patients," said Lloyd Smith, professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology and lead author of the study. Smith and his colleagues found that only 25 percent of the ovarian cancer patients who reported symptoms four or more months before their cancer was diagnosed had diagnostic pelvic imaging or CA-125 blood tests. Instead, most of the ovarian cancer patients who reported early symptoms received abdominal imaging or diagnostic gastrointestinal studies, which are less likely to detect ovarian cancer.
Smith recommended that if a routine medical workup finds no cause for possible ovarian cancer symptoms, physicians turn next to diagnostic pelvic imaging or CA-125 blood tests.