Ovarian Cancer Test Spots Tumors Earlier
But Cost, Process Might Keep it From Widespread Use
For now, Shih concedes that this test is far too expensive and labor-intensive to make it a viable option for general cancer screening for all women. But he says that it might be useful in screening women at high risk.
Poynor says this DNA test is an example of a new way to look at lots of things in a single blood sample rather than just one, as with conventional screening tests. A similar approach being studied by FDA researchers looks at several types of proteins in the blood that may be a marker for ovarian cancer.
Until researchers are able to narrow the number of markers they're looking for to just a few, Poynor says the technology and resources needed to perform these tests make them unlikely candidates for widespread screening. But there's a great need for widespread, reliable screening because only about 10% of ovarian cancer cases occur among high-risk women, such as those with a family history of the disease.
Although most women who develop ovarian cancer have no known risk factors for the disease, half of all cases are found in women over 65. Other factors that might increase a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer include long-term use of fertility drugs, not having any children, late menopause, or young age when menstruation starts.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer include pressure or fullness in the pelvis, abdominal bloating, abnormal vaginal bleeding, and changes in bowel/bladder patterns that are ongoing or worsen.
The researchers say a test based on digital DNA analysis might also hold promise for improved detection in a wide range of cancers, particularly those that are difficult to diagnose in the early stages.