Screenings for ovarian cancer do not reduce death rates from the disease and often produce false-positive results that can lead to unnecessary care with high complication rates, according to a recommendation released Monday by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the New York Times reports (Grady, New York Times, 9/10).
According to Reuters, just over 1% of women develop ovarian cancer, but the symptoms typically do not appear until the cancer already has spread, which makes it difficult to treat (Joelving, Reuters, 9/10).
The mortality rate is higher for ovarian cancer than for any other gynecological cancer, and it is the fifth-leading cause of death from cancer among women, the Washington Post reports (Sun, Washington Post, 9/10).
USPSTF Chair Virginia Moyer said, "There is no existing method of screening for ovarian cancer that is effective in reducing deaths" (New York Times, 9/10). She noted that "no major organization anywhere ... recommends screening for ovarian cancer," but "it does get done."
The two most common methods of testing -- transvaginal ultrasound and a blood test called CA-125 -- "actually result in greater harm than benefit," Moyer added (Reuters, 9/10).
More Details of USPSTF Recommendation
For the recommendation -- which also was published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine -- USPSTF relied heavily on data from a 2011 study of 78,216 women.
The study found that about 10% of women who were screened received a false-positive diagnosis that resulted in surgery, usually to remove one or both ovaries. In 15% of those cases, women had serious complications from the surgery, such as blood clots, infections and injuries to other organs. There was no difference in death rates among women who were screened and those who were not (New York Times, 9/10).
The task force's recommendation affirms a draft statement it released in April that concluded there was no new evidence to support changing a 2004 recommendation against ovarian cancer screening. The recommendation applies to asymptomatic women and those without known risk factors (Bankhead, MedPage Today, 9/10).
Women's health advocates said the recommendation underscores the need to develop better screening tools (Washington Post, 9/10).