Early Detection Research Network

Risk perception, worry, and test acceptance in average-risk women who undergo ovarian cancer screening.

We evaluated baseline knowledge of ovarian cancer risk and perceptions toward ovarian cancer screening (OCS) by initiating the normal risk ovarian screening study.

Average-risk, postmenopausal women were enrolled between 2001 and 2011 as they entered the normal risk ovarian screening study. Participants completed baseline surveys of risk perception, cancer worry (Cancer Worry Scale), anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory), health and well-being survey (SF-36 HEALTH SURVEY), and acceptability of OCS.

Of the 1242 women who were enrolled, 925 women (74.5%) completed surveys. The respondents estimated a mean lifetime risk of ovarian cancer of 29.9%, which is much higher than the actual risk of 1.4% for women in the United States. Only 2.8% of participants correctly estimated their risk; 35.4% of the participants reported their lifetime risk to be ≥50%. Cancer worry was low, with a median Cancer Worry Scale score of 7 of 24. Anxiety was comparable with published norms for women in this age group, with median STAI-State and STAI-Trait scores of 30 and 29 of 80, respectively. Overall, women reported good physical and mental well-being. In terms of OCS acceptability, 97.2% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that "the benefits of screening outweigh the difficulties." Very few women were reluctant to undergo OCS because of time constraints (1.1%), pain (2.0%), or embarrassment (1.9%).

Average-risk women who underwent OCS highly overestimated their risk of ovarian cancer. Despite this, participants reported low cancer worry and anxiety. The discrepancy between knowledge of and attitudes toward ovarian cancer risk highlights the need for educational efforts in this area.

Bast RC, Bodurka DC, Hernandez MA, Holman LL, Lu KH, Skates S, Sun CC


Am. J. Obstet. Gynecol., 2014, 210 (3)

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