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Ovarian cancer screening may save lives

Ovarian cancer screening may save lives
21st December 2015

The world's largest ovarian cancer screening trial has suggested that screening for ovarian cancer could save lives.

Led by a team from University College London (UCL), the study looked at whether an annual blood test could help reduce the number of women dying from the disease. According to the figures, this method of screening could reduce deaths from ovarian cancer by around 20 per cent.

The UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) research, published in the Lancet, warns that an extended follow-up period is needed to establish more certain estimates of how many deaths the screening could prevent. Although not specific, the results from the trial are promising.

They suggest that around 15 ovarian cancer deaths could be prevented for every 10,000 women who participate with a screening programme for annual blood tests for at least seven years.

During the 14-year study period, 1,282 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer out of more than 200,000 who were surveyed. All participants were between the ages of 50 and 74 and 649 had died of the disease by the trial end in December 2014.

The research team are now following up the study for three more years to establish the full impact of ovarian cancer screening.

Dr Fiona Reddington, Cancer Research UK's head of population research, said the trial had been "incredibly useful" for helping to improve 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 programme at this point."

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

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