CA-125 Cancer test is the best way to screen for Ovarian cancer-Fiction!

The “CA-125” Cancer Screening Test Is The Best Way To Detect Ovarian CancerFiction!

Summary eRumor: 
This is the first-hand account of a woman who says she was eventually diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but laments that she wasn’t given a “CA-125” medical test earlier than when she got it.  She urges women to get the test annually and equates it with a common screening test in men for prostate cancer.

The Truth:

Anyone who has had treatment for ovarian cancer knows what an important role the CA-125 test can play, but has reviewed numerous professional documents regarding the CA-125 test and has not found a single one that recommends it alone as the primary screening tool for ovarian cancer.  

CA-125 is a substance found in the blood of some women with ovarian cancer.  According to the American Cancer Society, however, a CA-125 test is not a reliable tool for finding ovarian cancer because of its poor accuracy.   There is a large number of false negatives because some ovarian cancers do not raise CA-125 levels and some false positives because other conditions can sometimes raise CA-125 levels.

Partly in response to the email eRumor, a statement was issued by a medical panel at a conference of the National Institutes of Health in April of 1994 that said the CA-125 test “…alone is not an adequate screening test.”

The Louis Busch Hagar Cancer Center of Bassett Healthcare in Cooperstown, New York, says that more than 50 percent of the women with ovarian cancer will not show results on a CA-125 test and a statement by the center calls the test a “disappointment.”

It is regarded as a valuable tool, however, when sometimes combined with other tests or in targeted groups of women, such as those who have already gone through menopause.   Also, a study in the February 16, 1999 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine and cited by the American Cancer Society found that the CA-125 test was a valuable in tracking the progress of one of the most common forms of ovarian cancer, but that was after the cancer had already been found and was being treated.  The same article says the CA-125 test does not meet the standards of a screening test.

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer and fifth most common cause of cancer death among women and accounts for four percent of all cancers in women and causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

There is no question that early detection should be every woman’s goal and that she should work with her physician to that end.

Last updated 2/10/01 For more information: of the Colorado Ovarian Resource

University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center Summary on Screening