Regular blood test can help to detect ovarian cancer early
A regular blood test would help pick up ovarian cancer in women at high risk of the disease, a new study shows.
About 330 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Ireland annually - but, owing to vague symptoms, too many are finding out they have the disease when it has progressed.
The new study, led by University College London, said that a blood test for high-risk women every four months may reduce the likelihood of them being diagnosed with advanced cancer.
Women with the BRCA1 or 2 gene mutations have an increased risk of developing it. Actress Angelina Jolie, who had a faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene, had her ovaries removed as a precaution.
In Ireland and the UK a significant number of high-risk women choose to delay surgery until they have naturally gone through the menopause or completed their families.
The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, examined levels of protein CA 125 in the blood, which can be elevated when a woman has ovarian cancer.
Some 4,000 women at high risk had the blood tests over three years and 19 were diagnosed with the disease, despite having no symptoms.
The official advice to women from the Health Service Executive is that the blood test for CA125 is not enough on its own and some women with cancer can have a normal level. The chemical is also produced for other conditions at raised levels so it may give the wrong diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
An ultrasound scan is the most reliable. It shows the size and texture of ovaries as well as any cysts present.
GPs have criticised the delay in accessing ultrasounds for public patients in Irish hospitals.