Now You Know: Ovarian cancer

Monday, September 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:20 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

What’s new: A study at the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center investigates better methods to detect ovarian cancer in women at risk of developing the disease. Early detection increases chances of long-term survival but is difficult because ovarian cancer usually has no obvious symptoms.

How it works: Participants have a yearly ultrasound and a blood test every three months to check for elevated levels of a protein that in high levels can be associated with ovarian cancer. The study uses a computer-based tool called ROCA, or Risk of Ovarian Cancer Algorithm. Participants can choose to have their ovaries removed, an option unique to the study. The women would still receive blood tests because removal does not eliminate all risk of developing cancer in nearby cells.

Why it matters: Ovarian cancer ranks fifth as a cause of cancer deaths in women. This year the disease is expected to kill more than 16,000 women, according to the American Cancer Society.

For information: The National Cancer Institute Web site,, has information about ovarian cancer and the ROCA study. Women interested in participating should be at least age 30, have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer or a genetic mutation that increases cancer risk. To participate, contact Rachel Mallett at 884-3801.

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