Decisions about screening tests can be difficult. Not all screening tests are helpful and most have risks. Before having any screening test, you may want to discuss the test with your doctor. It is important to know the risks of the test and whether it has been proven to reduce the risk of dying from cancer.
Depending on your stage of life and risk for ovarian cancer, you should discuss with your doctor the pros and cons of using birth control pills. Low-dose birth control pills are considered protective. Some studies suggest that women who take hormone replacement therapy after menopause may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
If you are at high risk for ovarian cancer, ask your doctor about available tests for ovarian cancer screening, including blood work, transvaginal ultrasound, and recto-vaginal...
The risks of ovarian screening tests include the following:
Finding ovarian cancer may not improve health or help a woman live longer.
Screening may not improve your health or help you live longer if you have advanced ovarian cancer or if it has already spread to other places in your body.
Some cancers never cause symptoms or become life-threatening, but if found by a screening test, the cancer may be treated. It is not known if treatment of these cancers would help you live longer than if no treatment were given, and treatments for cancer may have serious side effects.
False-negative test results can occur.
Screening test results may appear to be normal even though ovarian cancer is present. A woman who receives a false-negative test result (one that shows there is no cancer when there really is) may delay seeking medical care even if she has symptoms.
False-positive test results can occur.
Screening test results may appear to be abnormal even though no cancer is present. A false-positive test result (one that shows there is cancer when there really isn't) can cause anxiety and is usually followed by more tests (such as a laparoscopy or a laparotomy to see if cancer is present), which also have risks. An unnecessary oophorectomy (removal of one or both ovaries) may also result.
Your doctor can advise you about your risk for ovarian cancer and your need for screening tests.