The US Preventive Services Task Force doesn't recommend routine ovarian cancer screening for women with no symptoms, but a new study shows that doctors may not be following this guideline, reports Katherine Hobson at the Wall Street Journal Health Blog. The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that 28.5 percent of the 1,088 primary care doctors surveyed "sometimes" or "almost always" offer or order ovarian cancer screening tests like trans-vaginal ultrasound or CA-125 antigen screening for women at low risk of ovarian cancer. For women at medium risk of cancer, that number went up to 65.4 percent, Hobson says, even though there is no evidence that the benefits of these tests outweigh the risks. "About a third of physicians reported believing that ultrasound or CA-125 blood testing is an effective screening test for ovarian cancer," she adds. "It's unclear why that is." Some physicians also said they'd order tests if requested by the patient, even if they, themselves, didn't believe in the efficacy of the tests.
The study's authors tell Hobson that there may be a need for clinical tools to help doctors and patients understand the level of risk for ovarian cancer compared with the benefits and harms of a particular test.