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CA125 test better at predicting ovarian cancer

Friday October 30th 2020

A readily available blood test is able to predict ovarian cancer risk more successfully than previously thought – particularly for the over 50s, according to newly published findings.

Research published in the latest edition of PLOS Medicine also indicates that the CA125 test could detect other forms of cancer.

Dr Garth Funston at the University of Cambridge, UK, who led the study as part of the CanTest collaborative, followed more than 50,000 women in England who had the CA125 test at their GP surgery.

He and his colleagues found for the first time that about 350 women (10%) with CA125 protein levels at or above the cut-off value developed the disease and also discovered that more than 380 women with an abnormal CA125 result had another type of cancer such as pancreatic, lung or bowel cancer.

The proportion of women with an abnormal test who had cancer was much higher in women aged 50 or over (33%) than women younger than 50 years of age (6%), which suggests it is more useful for over 50s.

The research team has developed models that GPs can use to determine the risk of a woman having cancer.

Senior study author Dr Fiona Walter, from the University of Cambridge, said: “This blood test is clearly a useful tool for detecting ovarian cancer in primary care, particularly for women aged 50 or more. Doctors should also consider the possibility of other cancers if the test is abnormal, especially if ovarian cancer has been ruled out, to prevent delays to a diagnosis.

“Our results will help doctors triage women of different ages, selecting those with a higher risk of having cancer for fast referral and further tests. We hope that using the test, in this way, will help diagnose women with cancer earlier, while reducing unnecessary worry in those without the disease.”

Dr Jodie Moffat, Cancer Research UK’s head of early diagnosis, said: “Earlier detection and diagnosis of cancer offers the single biggest opportunity to save lives from the disease. Ovarian cancer is particularly difficult to diagnose, as women often experience symptoms that are difficult to pinpoint or are readily put down to other causes.

“This research reinforces the value of a readily available test. We encourage GPs to use the CA125 test readily, not only may this help to identify more women at an earlier stage of ovarian cancer, but it could also help to identify other cancers, too.”

Funston G, Hamilton W, Abel G et al. The diagnostic performance of CA125 for the detection of ovarian and non-ovarian cancer in primary care: a population-based cohort study. PLoS Medicine 29 October 2020

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003295

Tags: Cancer | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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