Some important medical information

I read an ad recently placed in the paper by a local ob/gyn, claiming that a transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) is better at detecting ovarian cancer than a CA 125.

This is incomplete information. And it is very important to set the record straight.

I am an ovarian cancer survivor; co-creator of the Johns Hopkins Ovarian Cancer Web site,; a peer reviewer of ovarian cancer grants for a congressionally mandated program; a member of the Blanton Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Board at MD Anderson and the UTMDACCC Ovarian Spore Advisory panel; and am on my way to Washington in two weeks to sit on the NCI SPORE panel.

No, I am not a doctor, but in my roles of patient advocate I have come to know some of the best minds working in ovarian cancer and a TVUS alone is not recommended. In fact, recent studies still under way demonstrate that alone it is not a useful tool in detecting ovarian cancer.

The experts recommend a CA 125 blood test, transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) and pelvic/rectal exam. A recent study completed in Scotland using Harvard’s Dr. Stephen Skates’ formula is demonstrating that the CA 125 measured serially over time is a much more accurate tool at detecting ovarian cancer than previously thought, even in premenopausal women.

And Dr. Bob Bast, Director of Translational Medicine at MDA and co-inventor of the test, is also finding that the CA 125 measured serially is proving in recent studies to be more accurate.

So, if you have symptoms of ovarian cancer, please get what experts recommend: a CA 125, TVUS and pelvic/rectal exam. And if ovarian cancer is suspected, ask for a referral to a gyn/oncologist.

Women who have their surgeries done by a gyn/oncologist have a 79 times better surgical outcome (accurate staging and tumor removal) versus 15 percent if done by a general surgeon or gyn surgeon. This is supported by papers from the NIH Pub Med library.

A current NCI study finishing up in Colorado, which is studying high-risk women (family history accounts for less than 10 percent of ovarian cancer cases), is using CA 125 measured twice a year, TVUS once a year and pelvic/rectal exam once a year.

For more information on ovarian cancer and its symptoms go to:

Sean Patrick

HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation