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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

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Ovarian Cancer Screening (PDQ®): Screening - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Overview

Note: Separate PDQ summaries on Ovarian Cancer Prevention; Ovarian Epithelial Cancer Treatment; Ovarian Germ Cell Tumor Treatment; and Ovarian Low Malignant Potential Tumor Treatment are also available.

Evidence of Benefit or Lack of Benefit Associated with Screening

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Single-threshold cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) levels and transvaginal ultrasound (TVU)

There is solid evidence to indicate that screening for ovarian cancer with the serum marker CA-125 and TVU does not result in a decrease in ovarian cancer mortality, after a median follow-up of 12.4 years.

Magnitude of Effect: The ovarian cancer mortality rate was 3.1 deaths per 10,000 women in the screened group and 2.6 deaths per 10,000 person-years in the usual-care group, yielding a mortality rate ratio of 1.18 (95% confidence interval, 0.82-1.71).

  • Study Design: Evidence obtained from one randomized controlled trial.
  • Internal Validity: Good.
  • Consistency: One trial has evaluated the impact on mortality from ovarian cancer.
  • External Validity: Good.

Statement of Harms

Based on solid evidence, screening for ovarian cancer results in false-positive test results. Screened women had higher rates of oophorectomy and other minor complications, such as fainting and bruising.

Magnitude of Effect:

  • Of screened women, 9.6% had false-positive results, resulting in 6.2% undergoing surgery. The surgical complication rate was 1.2% for all screened women.
  • Oophorectomy rates among screened women compared with usual-care women were 85.7 versus 64.2, respectively per 10,000 person-years.
  • Minor complications with screening: 58.3 cases per 10,000 women screened with CA-125 and 3.3 cases per 10,000 women screened with TVS.
  • Study Design: Evidence obtained from one randomized controlled trial.
  • Internal Validity: Good.
  • Consistency: Not applicable (N/A).
  • External Validity: Good.


  1. Buys SS, Partridge E, Black A, et al.: Effect of screening on ovarian cancer mortality: the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA 305 (22): 2295-303, 2011.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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