Ovarian Cancer Screenings Found Ineffective by Panel

Standard screening tests for ovarian cancer, including blood tests and ultrasound images of the ovaries, do not lower the death rate from the disease, and in fact yield an alarming number of false positive results, the United States Preventative Services Task Force has found.  The New York Times reports:

“There is no existing method of screening for ovarian cancer that is effective in reducing deaths,” said Dr. Virginia A. Moyer, the chairwoman of the expert panel, the United States Preventive Services Task Force. “In fact, a high percentage of women who undergo screening experience false-positive test results and consequently may be subjected to unnecessary harms, such as major surgery.”

The advice against testing applies only to healthy women with an average risk of ovarian cancer, not to those with suspicious symptoms or those at high risk because they carry certain genetic mutations or have a family history of the disease.

The recommendations are just the latest in a series of challenges to cancer screenings issued by the panel, which has also rejected P.S.A. screening for prostate cancer in men and routine mammograms in women under 50. The task force is a group of 16 experts, appointed by the government but independent, that makes recommendations about screening tests and other efforts to prevent disease. Its advice is based on medical evidence, not cost.

Image: Woman getting blood test, via Shutterstock

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