Patients presenting with signs of ovarian cancer could be diagnosed sooner, as a recent study has identified proteins scientists were previously unaware of.
Nagoya University in Japan has found three membrane proteins in ovarian cancer, which can be detected when blood, urine or saliva is tested, Medical News Today reported.
Their findings, which were published in Science Advances, could make it easier for ovarian cancer to be diagnosed earlier.
Research information lead at Cancer Research UK Dr Samuel Godfrey was also involved in the groundbreaking study.
He explained: “Researchers explored whether ‘tiny bubbles’ that come from ovarian cancer cells could act as warning signals for the disease, and their results suggest this approach could be worth exploring further.”
Currently, only one biomarker, Cancer Antigen 125 (CA125), can be used to detect ovarian cancer. However, this is not often the first indication of a diagnosis.
Doctors typically use CT scans, laparoscopies, and transvaginal ultrasounds to detect growths in the area. If there are any, a biopsy is carried out on the tumour to determine whether it is cancerous.
Therefore, the recent research, which could offer a diagnosis with a simple blood test, would be a significant step forward in the care of patients.
Despite this promise, Dr Godfrey recognised the study needs to be expanded on.
“We need to see more research into diagnostic tools like this because, if they work, they could make big changes to how we treat a variety of cancer types,” he stated.
If ovarian cancer can be detected sooner, this would also substantially improve patients’ prognosis.
According to Cancer Research UK, ovarian cancer patients have a 35 per cent chance of surviving ten years or longer. However, earlier diagnosis could dramatically improve this.
It is hoped the mortality rate for ovarian cancer in the UK will fall 15 per cent by 2038-2040.
More than one in ten ovarian cancer cases are preventable, with obesity, smoking and even workplace exposures increasing the risk of developing the condition.
Other risk factors include having a family history of ovarian cancer, taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT), having endometriosis or diabetes, using talcum powder, and not breastfeeding.
Due to the difficulty detecting ovarian cancer, it is important to go to the doctors if you start to experience any symptoms.
These include having a loss of appetite, persistent pain in the abdomen that does not seem to improve, bloating, needing to wee more frequently, a loss of appetite, feeling full quickly, unexplained tiredness, weight loss, or changes in bowel habits.
GPs then might refer you for further tests, conduct an internal examination to see if the ovaries and womb feel normal, or organise a blood test to detect CA125.
Women who want to see a specialist at their first appointment should book an appointment with a private oncology clinic. Call us today to see when we can fit you in.