Screening for ovarian cancer: imaging challenges and opportunities for improvement.


The United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) recently reported a reduction in the average overall mortality among ovarian cancer patients screened with an annual sequential, multimodal strategy that tracked biomarker CA125 over time, where increasing serum CA125 levels prompted ultrasound. However, multiple cases were documented wherein serum CA125 levels were rising, but ultrasound screens were normal, thus delaying surgical intervention. A significant factor which could contribute to false negatives is that many aggressive ovarian cancers are believed to arise from epithelial cells on the fimbriae of the fallopian tubes, which are not readily imaged. Moreover, because only a fraction of metastatic tumors may reach a sonographically-detectable size before they metastasize, annual screening with ultrasound may fail to detect a large fraction of early-stage ovarian cancers. The ability to detect ovarian carcinomas before they metastasize is critical and future efforts towards improving screening should focus on identifying unique features specific to aggressive, early-stage tumors, as well as improving imaging sensitivity to allow for detection of tubal lesions. Implementation of a three-stage multimodal screening strategy in which a third modality is employed in cases where the first-line blood-based assay is positive and the second-line ultrasound exam is negative may also prove fruitful in detecting early-stage cases missed by ultrasound.

  • Bast RC
  • Bedi DG
  • Mathieu KB
  • Qayyum A
  • Thrower SL
PubMed ID
Appears In
Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol, 2018, 51 (3)