Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death in American women and, if caught early, can push the five-year survival rate up to 90 percent, according to cancer.org.
However, according to a study released recently by the National Cancer Institute, screenings for ovarian cancer produced no reduction in the death of American women.
The 18-year study was not a surprise, but more of a disappointment, said the study's co-author, Dr. Christine Berg of the National Cancer Institute.
"I am the chief of early detection," Berg said. "I would have loved to have found a benefit."
The study was based on a random trial of more than 78,000 women aged 55-74. Half of the women were assigned annual screenings, with both an ultrasound scan and CA-125 blood test. They were compared to a control group, comprised of the approximately 39,000 other women who received regular care at the same medical centers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
There were 118 deaths in the screening group and 100 deaths in the control group, so based on the statistics there was no major difference. The women in the screening group did face more risks than the control group, as 1,080 went into surgery to remove what looked like suspicious ovarian tissue, but were eventually found to be harmless. Of the women who had surgery, 163, or 15 percent, had at least one serious complication, including infections and blood clots.
"Screening for ovarian cancer does not detect ovarian cancer at a stage where it's more likely to be cured," said Dr. Sandra Buys, the medical director of the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City.
Although the study showed that the screenings did more harm than good, researchers are encouraging women to still talk to their doctors about any changes, so that if they do have ovarian cancer, they can detect it early on when there is a greater chance for survival.