ANNOUNCER: Research is lending strong support to the notion that ovarian cancer is often preceded by a persistent cluster of vague, but recognizable, symptoms.
CAROLYN RUNOWICZ, MD: The symptoms can be very, very nonspecific. The back pain, lower abdominal pain, bloating, indigestion and so most of these symptoms in patients and in a doctor's eyes would point to the intestinal system. You would think you had reflux or GERD or constipation, and so it's a confusing picture. And so we don't have any specific symptoms to say to patients, "If you develop this, then you need to immediately be seen, because that's a symptom of early stage." So, unfortunately, most of the patients are diagnosed with advanced stage.
ANNOUNCER: The best case scenario would be the development of a screening test that detects ovarian cancer at an early, more curable, stage.
Some women may have heard of the CA125 blood test and transvaginal ultrasound, but doctors say that these tests are not reliable ways to detect ovarian cancer in most women.
CAROLYN RUNOWICZ, MD: There is no screening test for the average population, and I think that's very important. If every woman went out and got a CA125, we could basically diagnose ovarian cancer. However, 20 percent of tumors do not make CA125, so you'd pick up 80 percent, which would be okay. But, the problem is the CA125 is secreted by many organs and is an index of inflammation.
ANNOUNCER: So currently these screening tests are reserved for women who are at particularly high risk.