Lifestyle & Belief

Ovarian cancer screenings don't save lives, US Preventive Services Task Force says


An assistant professor at the University of Connecticut works with stem cells. Researchers have found that ovarian stem cells in adult women can be used to produce new eggs, in a study published in Nature Medicine on February 26, 2012.


Spencer Platt

A federal government task force said Monday that women should not get routinely screened for ovarian cancer. The cancer has a higher mortality rate than all other gynecological cancers, the Washington Post reported. It is the fifth-leading cause of cancer death for women. Nonetheless, the US Preventive Services Task Force found that women who get screened for the cancer do not have a lower risk of dying from the disease. 

However, the panel's recommendations come with a major caveat: the advice only applies to women with an "average risk" of ovarian cancer. It does not apply to women who are dealing with suspicious symptoms or who have a family history of the disease, the New York Times reported

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The Task Force made its decision by reviewing studies that other people conducted. The Task Force examined an old review of studies from 2008, as well as new research from 2011. The Task Force concluded that for women with no symptoms or no increased risk, the screenings do more harm than good because of false positives. 

The issue seems to be not that screening in itself is bad, but just that the screening methods available don't work so well. The tests seem to only detect ovarian cancer when it is at an advanced stage, at which point it is too late. “There is no existing method of screening for ovarian cancer that is effective in reducing deaths,” Dr. Virginia A. Moyer, the chairwoman of the expert panel, told the Times.