USPSTF: Ovarian Cancer Screening Not Recommended in Low-Risk, Asymptomatic Women

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Michael J. Barry, M.D., Task Force member Director of the Informed Medical Decisions Program Health Decision Sciences Center Massachusetts General Hospital. Professor of Medicine Harvard Medical School and  Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital

Dr. Barry

Michael J. Barry, M.D., Task Force member
Director of the Informed Medical Decisions Program
Health Decision Sciences Center
Massachusetts General Hospital.
Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School and
Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. It is hard to detect, and many women diagnosed with ovarian cancer do not show signs or symptoms early on. As a result, ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage, when it is hard to treat successfully.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force looked at the latest evidence to see if screening women who do not have signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer can prevent them from dying of the disease. Unfortunately, we found that screening for ovarian cancer does not decrease the number of women who die, but it does lead to some women having unnecessary surgery to remove their ovaries. As a result, we are recommending against ovarian cancer screening in women who are not at high risk.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Women who do not have symptoms of ovarian cancer or a reason to believe that they are at high risk should not be screened. The harms of screening, like unnecessary surgeries due to false-positive results, are significant, and the tests do not reduce the number of women who die. However, it is important to note that this recommendation does not apply to women who have a hereditary cancer syndrome like the BRCA gene mutation. Any woman concerned about her family history and risk for ovarian cancer should talk to her doctor about what tests are right for her. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: The Task Force is calling for additional research in multiple areas. We would like to see new screening strategies that could accurately detect ovarian cancer early, at a point when more women could be treated successfully, and better screening techniques that minimize false-positive results. More research on the benefits and harms of different screening methods in women without symptoms who are not at high risk for ovarian cancer would also be helpful, as would further overall research on ways to prevent ovarian cancer.  

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This final recommendation updates and reaffirms the Task Force’s 2012 final recommendation statement on this topic. We hope that future research efforts will be directed toward finding better screening tests and treatments for ovarian cancer so women can lead longer, healthier lives.

Citations:

JAMA. 2018 Feb 13;319(6):595-606. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.21421.
Screening for Ovarian Cancer: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force.
Henderson JT1, Webber EM1, Sawaya GF2.

 

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