A blood test can detect ovarian cancer two years before women are currently diagnosed.
It could save thousands of lives and reinforce the call for women to be invited for ovarian and breast cancer screening.
The blood test looks for four proteins that are released into the bloodstream by the most common type of ovarian cancer.
Epithelial ovarian cancer, which forms in the tissue that covers the ovary, is diagnosed in more than 7,000 women a year and kills more than 4,000.
A blood test can detect ovarian cancer two years before women are currently diagnosed. It could save thousands of lives and reinforce the call for women to be invited for ovarian and breast cancer screening
Scientists, who analyzed the blood of 49 women a year before their diagnosis, were able to detect more than two-thirds of those who got aggressive ovarian cancer.
They identified more than a quarter of the women who suffered from aggressive ovarian cancer two years before their diagnosis.
A test that can detect ovarian cancer one or two years earlier can mean the difference between life and death, because by the time most women visit the doctor with confusing symptoms such as bloating and abdominal pain, the cancer has already spread.
If the diagnosis is made at an early stage, 92 percent of women with ovarian cancer survive five years or more, but among those with the most advanced cancer this falls to 12 percent.
Dr. Robert Graham, who led the study at Queen & # 39; s University Belfast, said: & # 39; Most cases of ovarian cancer are arrested at a late stage, so we hope to have developed a test that could detect ovarian cancer earlier.
& # 39; We hope that with further research and in collaboration with the ovarian cancer research community, we can build the case to push experts to a national ovarian cancer screening program in the future. & # 39;
Women with ovarian cancer are usually diagnosed after experiencing symptoms that are difficult to recognize and include a swollen stomach, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and more frequent urination.
If a doctor suspects ovarian cancer, an abdominal examination can be followed by a blood test for a protein called CA125, which can then lead to an ultrasound.
However, the sixth most common cancer can be picked up by a much earlier blood test in healthy women.
This is important because two-thirds of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed once the disease has already spread.
The new test, a study published in the British Journal of Cancer, searches for four proteins in the blood and uses a computer algorithm to assess women's risk of ovarian cancer from & # 39; average & # 39; to & # 39; serious & # 39 ;.
It was tested using 80 initially healthy women from a previous study, whose blood was taken every year, and 49 of whom were later diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer.
A year prior to their diagnosis, the test was able to identify 68 percent of those who would develop aggressive ovarian cancer and 53 percent of those who would have a slower-growing cancer.
Two years before they were diagnosed, scientists discovered 28 percent of women who would get aggressive cancer and one in five who would become less aggressive.
The CA125 protein, discovered in the 1980s, has long been the gold standard for picking up ovarian cancer early in blood tests.
A study of four years ago suggested that an early blood test for this protein could reduce the number of deaths from ovarian cancer in women over 50, saving thousands of lives.
But the three newly discovered proteins, taken together, could improve the effectiveness of the test, according to researchers, because CA125 is also being listed in other conditions such as endometriosis.
They now want to test their test on a larger group of women and all types of ovarian cancer.
Dr. Rachel Shaw, research information manager at Cancer Research UK, who partially funded the study, said: & # 39; About half of ovarian cancer cases are picked up at a late stage when treatment is less likely to be successful. It is therefore essential to develop such simple tests that can detect the disease faster. & # 39;
Annwen Jones, CEO of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: & # 39; Progress is desperately needed to detect ovarian cancer earlier. These are promising early results, but the number of women involved is still too small. & # 39;
WHY OVARIAN CANCER A & # 39; SILENT KILLER & # 39; IS CALLED
About 80 percent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed in the advanced stages of the disease.
At the time of diagnosis, 60 percent of ovarian cancer has already spread to other parts of the body, reducing the five-year survival rate to 30 percent from 90 percent at the earliest stage.
It is diagnosed so late because the location in the pelvis, according to Dr. Ronny Drapkin, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who has been studying the disease for more than two decades.
& # 39; The pelvis is like a bowl, so a tumor there can become quite large before it becomes really noticeable. Drapkin to Daily Mail Online.
The first symptoms that occur with ovarian cancer are gastrointestinal because tumors can press up.
When a patient complains of gastrointestinal discomfort, doctors are more likely to focus on diet change and propose causes other than screening for ovarian cancer.
Dr. Drapkin said it is only after a patient has undergone persistent gastrointestinal symptoms that they will receive a screening that reveals the cancer.
"Ovarian cancer is often said to be a silent killer because it has no early symptoms, while in fact it is symptoms, they are just very common and can be caused by other things," he said.
"One of the things I tell women is that nobody knows your body as well as you. If you feel that something is wrong, something is probably wrong. & # 39;
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