A study looking at screening the general population for ovarian cancer (UKCTOCS)
This study looked at whether screening tests would be useful for diagnosing ovarian cancer in the general population. This trial was supported by Cancer Research UK.
At the moment there is no screening programme for ovarian cancer in the general population. This is because the tests that are used in a screening programme have to be reliable and accurate. Doctors are not sure yet if the tests available at the moment are good enough to pick up ovarian cancers early.
In the UKCTOCS trial, they are comparing 2 screening tests with having no test at all. The women either have a CA 125 blood test or a transvaginal ultrasound scan, or no screening test. The women in the trial have been through the menopause.
The aim of the trial is to see if either of these tests can help doctors diagnose women with ovarian cancer when their cancer is at an early stage. If the tests work well enough it could mean that women with ovarian cancer may be diagnosed earlier, and their cancer treated more effectively.
Summary of results
The results of the very first screening tests showed that both screening tests were useful in picking up signs of ovarian cancer. But, the CA 125 blood test was slightly more reliable than the transvaginal ultrasound test. Women who had the CA125 blood test were less likely to need to have the test done again. Women who had the transvaginal ultrasound scan sometimes had to have it done a second time to help doctors decide if they needed treatment or not.
More than 200,000 women were recruited. Of those
- One quarter had a blood test for the CA 125 tumour marker
- One quarter had a transvaginal ultrasound scan
- Half had no screening test – doctors call this the ‘control group’
The team published the results of the first screening tests in 2009. Based on these initial results, they found that an ovarian cancer screening programme using these tests would be possible. But to see how useful the screening tests are in the long term, they need to follow up the women who were recruited in the study for longer. The trial team will continue to follow up these women until 2015.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.
This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/03/029.
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