Symptoms Of Ovarian Cancer Remain Relatively Stabile Over Time As Reported By High Risk Women

Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center reported recently that symptoms of ovarian cancer tend to be relatively stable over time for women who are at increased risk of ovarian cancer based upon family history of cancer or BRCA 1/2 gene mutation.


Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, located in Seattle, Washington, recently evaluated the temporal stability of self-reported symptoms known to be associated with ovarian cancer. The study is a longitudinal analysis of symptom reporting from 123 women who participated in the Seattle-based Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Study (OCEDS). The OCEDS population includes women at increased risk of ovarian cancer based on a family history of cancer or a BRCA 1/2 mutation.

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Barbara A. Goff, M.D., Director, Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Washington.

The data regarding symptoms was collected at two time points using a so-called  “Symptoms Index” that included abdominal pain, pelvic pain, feeling full quickly, inability to eat normally, abdominal bloating, and increased abdominal size. There was a median of 101 days between the two data collection time points, with a range of 72 to 332 days. The median age of the women participating in the study was 51 years, with a range of 32-79 years.

The researchers reported that abdominal bloating was the most commonly reported symptom at both time points. The symptom least commonly reported at the two time points was inability to eat normally. The Symptoms Index was negative at both time points for 86% of all women and positive at both time points for 2% of all women. The researchers noted that there were no statistically significant patterns of change for symptom reporting between time points.

Based upon the foregoing, the researchers concluded that the Symptoms Index and women’s report of abdominal pain, pelvic pain, feeling full quickly, unable to eat normally, abdominal bloating, increased abdominal size were stable between two time points in this sample. These findings provide evidence that longitudinal measurements of symptoms reporting by women in a screening study are likely to be reliable, the researchers reported.

Notably, Barbara A. Goff M.D., the director of gynecologic oncology at the University of Washington in Seattle, is one of the study report authors. Dr. Goff has researched and written extensively about ovarian cancer, early detection, and treatment. “There is a significant difference in cure rates if ovarian cancer is found early,” she says. “As many as 70 to 80 percent of cases may be cured if found early. That figure drops to nearly 30 percent for those cases diagnosed later, which unfortunately make up nearly 80 percent of cases.”  Dr. Goff’s earlier research identified four warning signs of ovarian cancer that most women experience in the early stages of the disease.  Based upon Goff’s research, in June 2007, the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, and the American Cancer Society issued a consensus statement highlighting those four symptoms that are more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than in women in the general population. These symptoms are (i) bloating or increased abdominal size; (ii) pelvic or abdominal pain; (iii) difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and (iv) urinary frequency or urgency.

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