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Screening could cut ovarian cancer deaths.

Summary: Better screening could cut the number of women who die from ovarian cancer.

Screening could cut the number of women who die from ovarian cancer, researchers have found.

The illness is known as the "silent killer" because it often goes unnoticed in the early stages.

Initial findings from the largest trial of ovarian cancer screening ever conducted indicate that large numbers of early cases could be picked up by routine testing.

Lead investigator Professor Ian Jacobs, director of the University College London Institute for Women's Health, said: "There is a long way to go before we have firm evidence as to whether or not screening is able to detect cancer early enough to save lives.

"It will also be essential to balance any benefits offered by screening with the downside, as it is recognised that screening can cause anxiety and lead to some unnecessary operations."

The trial is being funded by the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research. It is also supported by the gynaecological research charity The Eve Appeal.

Trial co-ordinator Dr Usha Menon said: "These results are extremely encouraging. The early results suggest that both types of screening can be used on a large scale and both successfully identify ovarian cancers.

"However, we must wait until 2015 before we can conclude whether or not a wider screening programme could lead to a fall in deaths due to ovarian cancer."

Peter Reynolds, chief executive of the charity Ovarian Cancer Action, said: "The initial findings of this long-term study are encouraging, particularly because almost half of the ovarian cancers detected were at an early stage (stage 1), when survival rates can be as high as 90 per cent.

"However, the trial still has several years until completion and the researchers will need to assess mortality rates to get a clearer idea of how effectively these screening methods translate into saving lives.

"In the absence of a national screening programme, improving awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and developing a better understanding of how to treat it more effectively through investment in research, will both play a vital role in ensuring women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer at an earlier stage and they receive the most effective treatment."

Independent Television News Limited 2009. All rights reserved.

Independent Television News Limited 2009. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Independent Television News Limited (ITN)
Date:Mar 12, 2009
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