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Scientists find new way to distinguish between ovarian tumours

A new test can help doctors identify ovarian cancer in patients easily and accurately which in turn will cut down on the instances of unnecessary and sometimes life-altering surgery.

A research team from across the country has developed a series of tests to help identify ovarian cancer. These tests have been developed to use clinical and ultrasound findings to assess whether ovarian and other womb tumours are benign or malignant, and if they do turn out to be malignant, the stage of the cancer and potentially how far it has spread.

Calls for more accurate testing in patients suffering from ovarian cancer have been echoed throughout the health service. In younger women, accurate and easy testing could lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment – something which in turn could help save lives.

These newly developed testing methods were based on a ‘prediction model’ called ADNEX, developed using information from over 3,000 participant women who had had a ‘mass’ seen on their ovaries at an ultrasound appointment. These masses then tended to be surgically removed and examined in the laboratory. This model was also able to distinguish between benign and malignant tumours, as well as assessing the stage of any spread.

It is important to point out that ADNEX is not a screening method. Currently the national health service have no screening method advanced enough to detect ovarian cancer in its earlier stages, so screening for the condition doesn’t take place in the UK. However, researchers from the study which helped develop ADNEX have said that it could be further improved and potentially used as a second-stage test to distinguish between different types of ovarian tumours once a diagnosis has been made.

The ADNEX contains a number of ‘predictors’ – ways it deciphers what type of tumour that the patient has. These include age detectors, blood levels of the cancer antigen-125 (a biological marker which is often raised in the presence of ovarian cancer), the maximum diameter of the mass proportion of soft tissue, number of cyst locules and even the presence of abnormal free fluid in the abdomen.

Hopefully the ADNEX will be developed into a clinical tool which supports and aids the work of NHS staff against ovarian cancer. Whilst there is currently no screening test for the condition in the UK, and the initial symptoms of ovarian cancer aren’t widely specific, you should still contact your GP for medical advice if you are suffering from persistent bloating, trouble or difficulty eating and pain in either the pelvis or the abdomen.

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