CA125 and transvaginal ultrasound monitoring in high-risk women cannot prevent the diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer

Gynecol Oncol. 2006 Jan;100(1):20-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2005.08.038. Epub 2005 Sep 26.


Objectives: The main objective of screening is to identify cases of ovarian cancer in early stages. However, screening of women in the general population is ineffective due to a failure of detecting early-stage disease and high false positive rates of CA125 and transvaginal ultrasound (TVU) monitoring. The purpose of this study is to evaluate ovarian cancer screening by means of pelvic examination, serum CA125 and TVU in a consecutive series of high-risk women.

Methods: Clinical data were collected from 132 BRCA1, 20 BRCA2 germ line mutation carriers, 72 members of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) families and 88 breast cancer patients from a hereditary breast cancer (HBC) family, seen between January 1996 and December 2002.

Results: Among 10 women with an elevated CA125 level and a positive TVU, three screening carcinomas (one FIGO stage IC, one stage IIIB and one stage IV) and one interval carcinoma (stage IV) were detected. Five occult ovarian/fallopian tube carcinomas (two stage IA, one stage IC, one stage IIIB and one stage IV) after bilateral prophylactic (salpingo-) oophorectomy (BP(S)O) have been found in 152 women. The sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values (PPV and NPV) of the combination of CA125 and TVU were the highest (40%, 99%, 40% and 99%) followed by CA125 alone (50%, 96%, 13% and 99%), pelvic exam (40%, 98%, 21% and 99%) and TVU, separately (40%, 90%, 6% and 99%).

Conclusion: By combining CA125 with TVU results, a PPV of 40% was achieved. However, the diagnostic tools appear to be only sensitive in detecting ovarian cancer at an advanced stage, while three of four tumors with early-stage disease in this series had normal screening tests prior to the diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • CA-125 Antigen / blood*
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1
  • Genes, BRCA2
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Germ-Line Mutation
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / blood*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pelvis
  • Physical Examination
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography


  • CA-125 Antigen