Background: To evaluate the prevalence and significance of abnormal ovarian findings in asymptomatic postmenopausal women, screening for ovarian cancer with color Doppler ultrasound was performed.
Methods: One thousand three hundred sixty-four asymptomatic women aged 56-61 years (mean, 59 years) were examined by color Doppler sonography. Ninety-six percent of the examinations were transvaginal and 4% transabdominal. The criteria for abnormality were an ovarian volume 8 cm3 or greater, nonuniform echogenicity, and/or pulsatility index (PI) of the ovarian artery or tumor vessel, if present, 1.0 or less. Repeat sonograms were performed 1-3 months later on all patients with abnormal findings, and exploratory laparotomy was performed if a malignant tumor was suspected.
Results: Abnormal ovarian findings were detected in 160 women (12%). At the time of repeat sonogram there were 28 persisting abnormalities (2%). At that time, the ovary was regarded as normal if it still contained a small clear cyst with an unchanged greatest dimension of less than 20 mm. Three women had a low PI value but all had also abnormal ovarian sonographic morphology. Two ultrasound-guided cyst punctures were performed and three patients had surgery; one benign serous cyst, one benign serous cystadenoma, and one serous cystadenoma of borderline malignancy were detected. The remaining abnormal findings disappeared or remained unchanged during a minimum follow-up of 2 years. One case of Stage IA ovarian cancer has been reported 2 years after a negative screening and one abdominal carcinomatosis 2 1/2 years after a negative screening result.
Conclusions: There is a high frequency of small ovarian cysts in asymptomatic postmenopausal women. A large percentage of these cysts regress spontaneously or remain unchanged. Transvaginal color Doppler ultrasound is an effective method for detecting these lesions. Color Doppler does not increase substantially the number of operations for benign reasons. However, as a primary screening modality, the conventional sonography seems to be quite sufficient.