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Ovarian cancer: screening and future directions
  1. Keshav Kumar Gupta1,
  2. Vinay Kumar Gupta2 and
  3. Robert Wendel Naumann3
  1. 1 Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2 University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3 Levine Cancer Institute, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Keshav Kumar Gupta, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, Birmingham B71 4HJ, UK; keshav.gupta{at}


Ovarian cancer carries a lifetime risk of approximately 2% for women and is the leading cause of death from any gynecologic malignancy. Currently, no screening program for ovarian cancer exists for the general population in the UK. This review focuses on the evidence surrounding the efficacy of current markers and discusses future improvements in screening for this disease. One-off cancer antigen 125 (CA125) measurements for detecting ovarian cancer have been well researched. However, studies have highlighted low positive predictive values (5%) and high false positive rates leading to patient anxiety and unnecessary invasive follow-up. Commonly, in the UK, CA125 is combined with transvaginal ultrasound, but there is little evidence that this approach can decrease mortality from ovarian cancer. Recently the Risk of Ovarian Cancer Algorithm, involving a combination of serial CA125 measurements and age, has been shown to detect more early stage cancers. Nevertheless, these measures are not robust in decreasing mortality from ovarian cancer and are costly to implement. Newer markers, such as human epididymis protein 4, have shown greater specificity. Its combination with CA125 and menopausal status in the Risk of Ovarian Malignancy Algorithm can predict the risk of malignancy but provides no additional benefit as a screening tool. Advanced techniques are emerging, including ultrasound molecular imaging techniques using microbubbles targeted to kinase domain receptors, and fallopian tube cytology. To reduce mortality from ovarian cancer, detection of pre-invasive lesions is imperative as ovarian cancer may develop in the fallopian tube and spread to the peritoneal cavity before being detected systemically. It seems that screening tools for ovarian cancer are currently not worthwhile for implementation into a national program. An emphasis on reducing false positives rates, associated anxiety and subsequent overdiagnosis is needed.

  • ovarian
  • carcinoma
  • screening
  • CA125

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned, externally peer reviewed.