USPSTF recommends against routine screening for ovarian cancer

New ovarian cancer screening guidelines from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) received moderate coverage in print and online. Many sources quoted USPSTF chair Dr. Virginia Moyer. The Washington Post reports that the USPSTF “recommended Monday that women not get routinely screened for ovarian cancer because doing so can put them at increased risk for unnecessary harm, such as major surgery.”

The New York Times reports, “For its latest recommendations, the panel relied heavily on a large study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association of 78,216 women ages 55 to 74.” About half underwent screening, while the other half did not. The researchers found “no advantage to screening: the death rate from ovarian cancer was the same in the two groups.” Meanwhile, “among the women who were screened, nearly 10 percent – 3,285 women – had false-positive results.” Many of these women underwent surgery.

CQ reports, “The recommendation applies only to women without symptoms of disease.” Individuals “with genetic mutations that increase their risk are not included in the recommendation, either.” Meanwhile, “task force members said women with a family history of ovarian cancer should consider genetic counseling so they can evaluate their potential for further risks.”

The CNN (9/11, Curley) “The Chart” blog reports, “The recommendations were published … in the Annals of Internal Medicine.”

Reuters quotes that Dr. Moyer as saying, “There simply is not currently a method of screening (for ovarian cancer) that works.”

Bloomberg News reports, “The case against ovarian cancer screening is particularly clear, Moyer said in a telephone interview. By the time such a tumor is visible with ultrasound, it is very advanced, she said.” With regard to the “blood test, CA-125 levels are elevated for many other reasons, including pregnancy and liver problems, she said.”

MedPage Today reports, “The panel noted that the recommendation is consistent with those of other major medical organizations – including the American Cancer Society and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – which have recommended against routine screening for ovarian cancer in asymptomatic women.”

HealthDay (9/11, Gardner) reports, “Preliminary data from … another trial, ongoing in the United Kingdom,” showed “false-positive results in about 10 percent of women undergoing screening. Half of those women had surgery and about four percent of these experienced a major complication from the surgery.”


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