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Health Agencies Update
November 22/29, 2006

Ovarian Cancer Tests

JAMA. 2006;296(20):2429. doi:10.1001/jama.296.20.2429-a

Many of the tests used to diagnose ovarian cancer do not reduce mortality from the disease or improve patients' quality of life, according to a new report supported by a partnership of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Annually, more than 20 000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and approximately 15 000 die of the disease.

Because ovarian cancer often goes undetected until advanced stages, recent tests have focused on potential signs of early disease, such as the tumor marker CA-125 (cancer antigen-125) and genetic mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2. However, researchers performed a review of the literature and found no studies showing that changing treatment based on these tests' results reduced deaths or improved quality of life in women with ovarian cancer. A computer simulation model designed by the researchers also suggested that very frequent screening (less than 1 year between tests) would be necessary to significantly reduce the numbers of deaths from the disease but would also yield a large number of false-positives. Genomic Tests for Ovarian Cancer Detection and Management can be found at http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/tp/genovctp.htm.

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