Ovarian cancer is a deadly disease that affects the ovaries, which are the female reproductive organs responsible for producing eggs. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer often does not cause noticeable symptoms until it has progressed to an advanced stage, making it difficult to detect and treat early. As a result, screening for ovarian cancer is a critical component of early detection and prevention efforts. In this answer, we will discuss the recommended screening options for ovarian cancer.
Transvaginal Ultrasound (TVUS)
Transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) is a non-invasive procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the ovaries. During the procedure, a small wand-shaped device is inserted into the vagina, allowing the doctor to view the ovaries on a screen. TVUS is often used in conjunction with a blood test for the cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) to screen for ovarian cancer in women who are at high risk for the disease. However, TVUS is not recommended as a routine screening test for ovarian cancer in women at average risk of the disease, as it can result in a high rate of false positives and lead to unnecessary surgeries.
Cancer Antigen 125 (CA-125) Blood Test
The cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) blood test measures the levels of a protein called CA-125 in the blood. CA-125 is often elevated in women with ovarian cancer, and the test can be used to monitor the response to treatment for the disease. However, the CA-125 test is not recommended as a routine screening test for ovarian cancer in women at average risk of the disease, as it can result in a high rate of false positives and lead to unnecessary surgeries.
Risk Assessment and Genetic Testing
Women who have a family history of ovarian cancer or who carry certain gene mutations, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, are at increased risk of developing the disease. These women may be candidates for risk assessment and genetic testing to determine their risk of ovarian cancer. If a woman is found to be at high risk of ovarian cancer, she may be advised to undergo regular screening with TVUS and the CA-125 blood test, as well as preventive surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
A pelvic exam is a physical exam of the pelvic organs, including the ovaries. During the exam, the doctor will feel for any lumps or abnormalities in the ovaries. However, the pelvic exam is not recommended as a routine screening test for ovarian cancer, as it is not sensitive enough to detect early-stage disease.
Women should also be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, which can include bloating, abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary symptoms. If a woman experiences any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, she should see her doctor for further evaluation.
In conclusion, there are several screening options for ovarian cancer, including TVUS, the CA-125 blood test, risk assessment and genetic testing, pelvic exam, and symptom awareness. However, routine screening for ovarian cancer is not recommended for women at average risk of the disease, as it can result in a high rate of false positives and lead to unnecessary surgeries. Women should discuss their risk factors for ovarian cancer with their doctor and work together to develop a personalized screening plan that is appropriate for their individual needs.