Ovarian cancer 'signs' called into doubt

Key symptoms GPs look for as signs of ovarian cancer may not be linked to the disease, US research suggests.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, Seattle, interviewed 812 ovarian cancer patients. Results were compared with interviews with 1,313 controls who did not have ovarian cancer.

Positive predictive value of a symptom index and of ovarian cancer symptoms included in a previous consensus statement from the American Cancer Society were assessed - including bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain and difficulty eating.

These symptoms were found less likely in women with early-stage ovarian cancer than late-stage cancer. The estimated positive predictive value of the symptoms was between 0.6 and 1.1 per cent, and less than 0.5 per cent for early-stage disease.

The researchers called for a cautious approach to using the symptoms to prompt extensive medical checks because of their low predictive value.

J Natl Cancer Inst 2010; 102: djp500.

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