Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer Often Delayed, Study Finds
Four in 10 women reported to their physicians symptoms of ovarian cancer at least four months before being diagnosed, according to a study of California Medicare beneficiaries published Monday in the online edition of the journal Cancer, the Sacramento Bee reports (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 8/23).
Lloyd Smith, chair of the OB/GYN department at the University of California-Davis School of Medicine, and colleagues examined the diagnosis codes and claims for diagnostic procedures in records of California Medicare beneficiaries ages 68 and older. Researchers evaluated the records of 1,985 women who had ovarian cancer, 6,024 women who had breast cancer and 10,941 age-matched women without cancer (Reuters, 8/22).
The study found that 47.5% of the ovarian cancer patients had reported abdominal pain, bloating and other symptoms of ovarian cancer as much as three months before being diagnosed and that about 7% of patients had reported symptoms 10 months to 12 months prior to diagnosis (Sevrens Lyons, San Jose Mercury News, 8/22). Women with ovarian cancer were more likely to report such symptoms than other patient groups considered in the study.
In addition, the study indicated that few patients were administered tests to specifically target ovarian cancer symptoms more than three months before being diagnosed with the disease (Sacramento Bee, 8/23).
Smith said the study indicated that physicians initially did not perform the best available tests to diagnose ovarian cancer, including pelvic imaging and a blood test called CA125. Instead, doctors usually performed abdominal imaging tests and other gastrointestinal procedures, he said.
The researchers concluded that some ovarian cancer cases could have been diagnosed at least four months earlier if doctors had employed several different tests more quickly (San Jose Mercury News, 8/22).
Smith said that 75% to 80% of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed after the disease has spread outside of the ovaries, contributing to a five-year survival rate of 15% to 20%. Smith said the five-year survival rate was 85% to 90% if the disease is diagnosed before it spreads beyond the ovaries (Sacramento Bee, 8/23).
More than 22,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer annually, and more than 16,000 die of the disease each year, according to the American Cancer Society (Reuters, 8/22).
According to the Bee, the study is the first "objective analysis" of ovarian cancer symptoms, which previous studies addressed using ovarian cancer patients' memory of symptoms (Sacramento Bee, 8/23).
An abstract of the study is available online.