As there are no proven screening tests for ovarian cancer and initial symptoms are nonspecific, diagnosis requires a high index of suspicion. Women with unexplained suggestive symptoms should be assessed with measurement of cancer antigen 125 (CA-125), a pelvic ultrasound examination and calculation of the risk of malignancy index.
In Australia, ovarian cancer is the ninth most common cancer among women and the sixth most common cause of cancer death; it has the worst incidence to mortality ratio of all women’s cancers. Every year, about 1300 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, one every seven hours, and 800 women die of this disease, one every 12 hours. These poor outcomes stem from the lack of any effective screening test and the fact that the initial symptoms are so nonspecific. Hence, most women are diagnosed in the advanced stages of the disease, with inherently poor survival outcomes.
Picture credit: © Molly Borman Biomedical Illustrations, Inc.