As far as women's reproductive health is concerned, the world still has a long way to go. However, experts and medical professionals have been gaining ground to combat the most common causes of diseases that inflict a woman's ability to conceive or carry and deliver a baby.
Ovarian cancer ranks high on the list of the most common causes of death among women. Unlike breast cancer, it is more difficult to detect and currently have no tests to pinpoint it early enough to prevent deaths. Its symptoms are also shared by many other illnesses, so doctors identify it rather late.
A news study published in the journal Lancet found that a blood test screening for all women could reduce ovarian cancer deaths by as much as 20 percent. The UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) is a 14-year-long research that involved more than 200,000 women—one of the largest studies on ovarian cancer—claims that the yearly blood test, along with considering other risk factors, could effectively detect ovarian cancer and treat it early enough.
ROCA was invented by study author Professor Ian Jacobs, M.D., president and vice-chancellor of UNSW Australia and honorary professor at University College London. It tracks CA125, a chemical produced by a woman's ovarian tissue and if elevated levels are detected, it prompts medical professionals to monitor the patient more closely by having her undergo further tests and/or surgery. Currently, only women considered high-risk are screened for early warning signs of ovarian cancer.
"The findings are of importance given the limited progress in treatment outcomes for ovarian cancer over the last 30 years," said Professor Usha Menon, one of the lead researchers of the trial and a professor at the Institute for Women’s Health at University College London. However, the researchers admit that they need to dig deeper if the test were to become routine for all women. “Longer follow-up is needed, but this brings hope in the fight against a disease for which the outlook for women is poor and has not improved much during the last three decades,” says Dr. Jacobs in a statement.
According to another U.K. study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology last May, the test successfully test detects ovarian cancer more than 85-percent of the time. Likewise, a U.S. study published in the journal Cancer found that the ROCA test can also accurately rule out ovarian cancer almost 100-percetn of the time. These prove that the simple blood test is highly-effective. Combine that with early detection, and it would reduce ovarian cancer deaths and prolong patient's life.
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Until this blood test becomes routine for all women, it’s important to be vigilant about reproductive health. Maria Carla Esquivias-Chua, M.D., an OB-gyn affiliated with Capitol Medical Center and Dr. Jesus Delgado Memorial Hospital, both in Quezon City, recommends all women, whether trying to conceive or not sexually active to go for regular check-ups with your OB. “Take a pap smear test and, ideally, a transvaginal ultrasound every year to check for overall reproductive health.”
Sources: December 21, 2015. "Ovarian Cancer Screening Could Reduce Deaths By As Much As 20 Percent" (huffingtonpost.com) December 17, 2015. "This Ovarian Cancer Screening Test Could Save Lives, Study Says" (yahoo.com) December 17, 2015. "First evidence to suggest that screening for ovarian cancer may save lives" (ucl.ac.uk)