Screening for ovarian cancer: a pilot randomised controlled trial

Lancet. 1999 Apr 10;353(9160):1207-10. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(98)10261-1.


Background: The value of screening for ovarian cancer is uncertain. We did a pilot randomised trial to assess multimodal screening with sequential CA 125 antigen and ultrasonography.

Methods: Postmenopausal women aged 45 years or older were randomised to a control group (n=10,977) or screened group (n=10,958). Women randomised to screening were offered three annual screens that involved measurement of serum CA 125, pelvic ultrasonography if CA 125 was 30 U/mL or more, and referral for gynaecological opinion if ovarian volume was 8.8 mL or more on ultrasonography. All women were followed up to see whether they developed invasive epithelial cancers of the ovary or fallopian tube (index cancers).

Findings: Of 468 women in the screened group with a raised CA 125, 29 were referred for a gynaecological opinion; screening detected an index cancer in six and 23 had false-positive screening results. The positive predictive value was 20.7%. During 7-year follow-up, ten further women with index cancers were identified in the screened group and 20 in the control group. Median survival of women with index cancers in the screened group was 72.9 months and in the control group was 41.8 months (p=0.0112). The number of deaths from an index cancer did not differ significantly between the control and screened groups (18 of 10,977 vs nine of 10,958, relative risk 2.0 [95% CI 0.78-5.13]).

Interpretation: These results show that a multimodal approach to ovarian cancer screening in a randomised trial is feasible and justify a larger randomised trial to see whether screening affects mortality.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • CA-125 Antigen / blood*
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / blood
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / mortality
  • Pilot Projects
  • Postmenopause
  • Survival Rate
  • Ultrasonography
  • United Kingdom


  • CA-125 Antigen