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Can cancer be detected w/ a drop of blood?

June 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
When a doctor discovers a tumor or cyst on a woman's ovaries it's usually by happenstance. Figuring out if it's cancer or not will mean having to go through several surgeries. Now, the cancer question could be answered in a drop of blood. The first blood test for ovarian masses was just approved by the FDA. More than a million women are living with ovarian masses. Twenty-two thousand of them will be told that they have cancer and more than 14,000 women will die this year.

Traditional tests missed Cindy Hastings' cancer. A routine surgery turned into a hysterectomy when doctors finally spotted it. Then, she had a second surgery to make sure the cancer didn't spread.

"That was pretty devastating because, you know, when someone is telling you it's not cancer and then you find out it is," said Hastings.

Pathologist Eric Fung hopes the blood test his team created will help people like Hastings avoid multiple surgeries and get the right treatment sooner.

"It's known as the silent killer because it's difficult to diagnose," said Dr. Fung.

The test -- called OVA1 -- reads five specific proteins in a woman's blood. It can determine if an ovarian mass is malignant, benign or if the patient needs to see a specialist for surgery.

"If I would have known and had the OVA1 prior, I wouldn't have had to have the second surgery. I would have just gone right on to the oncology doctor," said Hastings.

In a study, conventional tests like CAT scans found 72-percent of ovarian cancers. The new blood test spotted 92-percent.

She is still fighting her battle and is staying strong by preparing for a half marathon.

"I'll get through. I may be coming in at night, but I will get through it," said Hastings.

A will that she hopes pushes her to win the race against ovarian cancer as well.

Doctors say there are more than 300,000 ovarian mass surgeries in the U.S. each year. With this new test, they hope to eliminate some of those surgeries and help women achieve better outcomes. Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer death in women.

Web Extra Information:

Ovarian Cancer:

Ovarian cancer consists of a malignant tumor that has grown with abnormal cells. The cancer cells spread to other body tissues by traveling over to the adjacent organs and traveling through the bloodstream or lymph node channels to other parts of the body. Symptoms are similar to other conditions, and many ovarian cancer cases are commonly misdiagnosed. The key to differentiating is the persistent or worsening signs and symptoms; digestive disorder symptoms come and go. Ovarian cancer symptoms are constant and get worse over time. Women may experience stomach pressure, swelling, urinary urgency and pelvic discomfort.

Screening Ovarian Cancer:

Currently, there is no standardized test to screen for ovarian cancer, and most doctors do not recommend screening for this type of cancer because of the possible harmful side effects. Some of the screening tests may lead to unnecessary surgeries that can have complications, cause anxiety and require a possible loss of work time. There are a few screening tests available commercially, but none have been proven to improve outcomes. Diagnosis can also be made through pelvic examinations, ultrasounds, computerized tomography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and a CA 125 blood test, which is a protein made by the body that shows up with high levels in the blood. (SOURCE: Mayo Clinic)

New Test: OVA1:

This is the first laboratory blood test that can help doctors determine if a woman is at risk for ovarian cancer. The test can indicate the likelihood of a woman getting the cancer with high sensitivity before any biopsy or surgery. The OVA1 is an in-vitro diagnostic multivariate index test that uses results from five immunoassays to produce a single score showing the likelihood of cancer. Having the OVA1 allows for a pre-operative evaluation to help doctors assess the likelihood of surgery and care for the woman. Vermillion, Inc., a molecular diagnostics company, with the help of Quest Diagnostics, developed the OVA1. To qualify for the test, women must meet the following criteria: be over age 18, have an ovarian adnexal mass present for which surgery is planned and must not yet be referred to an oncologist.


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