Is early detection of ovarian cancer possible?

Ann Med. 1995 Oct;27(5):519-28. doi: 10.3109/07853899509002463.


Advances in medical technology have led to potentially useful techniques for the early detection of epithelial ovarian cancer. Early detection of ovarian cancer is crucial for survival as women found to have Stage I or II disease have a 5-year survival of 90% and 70%, respectively, whereas those with advanced disease (Stage III and IV) have a survival of approximately 20%. The circulating tumour marker CA-125 has been extremely useful in following women known to have epithelial ovarian cancers. It has been employed in differentiating benign tumours from malignancies, and is now being tested in a variety of programmes for its role in the early detection of ovarian cancer. The application of endovaginal ultrasound and colour Doppler flow techniques to early detection of ovarian cancer have resulted in several large series identifying ovarian cancer in 1:1000 to 1:2000 postmenopausal women screened. However, a high false positivity rate persists using CA-125 and ultrasound techniques alone or in sequence. Developments in molecular genetics may be extremely useful in evaluating women with inherited susceptibilities for this disease, but this probably represents only about 3% of the population of the women who develop epithelial ovarian cancer. The cost-benefit analysis of isolated screening for epithelial ovarian cancer using CA-125 and ultrasound techniques, even in women at high risk for the disease, would suggest that such screening is not cost-effective at this time.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • CA-125 Antigen / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Time Factors
  • Ultrasonography


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CA-125 Antigen