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Ovarian Cancer Screenings Not Effective, Expert Panel Says

A panel of medical professionals recommended that ovarian cancer screenings not be performed as they do more harm than good.

The panel revealed Monday that most screenings, which involve blood tests and ultrasounds, do not lower the death rate, and in some cases result in false-positive findings. These false-positive results can often lead to unnecessary surgeries with high complication rates.

According to the New York Times, the advice against testing is aimed only at healthy women, not women with suspicious symptoms or those at a high risk due to genetic mutations or a family history of cancer. The panel that made these findings was made up of sixteen experts appointed by the government, whose advice is based on medical evidence, not cost.

The panel based its conclusions on a study that followed more than 70,000 women for 11 to 13 years. Half of the women were screened while the other half were not, and the study found the death rate was the same in both groups. However, 10 percent of the women who were screened had false-positive results.

This panel has also issued earlier recommendations against P.S.A screenings for prostate cancer in men and routine mammograms for women under 50.

In the past, the panel has drawn criticism for its finding, especially in the case of mammograms, but many organizations agree with its stance in this case. The American Cancer Society and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have been against screening for ovarian cancer for years.

Ovarian cancer is among the more rapidly fatal forms of cancer due to the fact that it is most often detected in advanced stages. According to the American Cancer Society, 22,280 new cases and 15,500 deaths are expected in the United States this year.

Although the panel opposes early screenings, it is important for women to be aware of the symptoms, which include persistent bloating, abdominal pain, feeling full early while eating and the need to constantly urinate. We always advise our clients that it is always safer to consult a doctor when you suspect a serious injury or illness.

Source: The New York Times, "Ovarian Cancer Screenings Are Not Effective, Panel Says," Denise Grady, Sept. 11, 2012.

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