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Is There a Blood Test for Ovarian Cancer?

We hear a lot about new scientific discoveries in the fight against cancer, and while most of the new is good news, it's also confusing.  One source of confusion is whether there is a blood test for ovarian cancer.  While there is no blood test to see if someone has any specific cancer per se, there are blood tests which help us make a diagnosis, to follow how patients respond to treatments, and to screen for relapses.  Some of these tests are useful to screen women at very high risk for cancer, but none are ready for prime time as a screening test for the general public.

The best way to identify ovarian cancer is through an abnormality felt on a routine pelvic exam. . Which means the best preventive measure women can take is to have their annual gynecologic exam.  An ultrasound exam can confirm this.  If cancer is suspected, a blood test can be ordered to measure CA-125, a protein produced by ovarian cancer cells which is elevated in half of women with early ovarian cancer and 80% of women with advanced cancer.  This is NOT a reliable screening or diagnostic test for ovarian cancer, however.  The only way to make the definite diagnosis is surgically.  As with most cancers, the earlier the stage of ovarian cancer at the time of diagnosis, the better the prognosis will be.

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Created: 1/22/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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