Tuesday, October 7, 2008

OvaSure...I'm Sure

When I read earlier this summer about LabCorp's new test, OvaSure, I quickly became one of its biggest proponents. Any test that can accurately predict the presence of ovarian cancer 90-99% of the time with a simple blood test is tops in my book. Ovarian Cancer is the deadliest of all women's cancer. When it's diagnosed early, Ovarian cancer is curable up to 92% of the time. However, most patients aren't diagnosed until they are at least stage III and by then the cure rate is only about 30%. Because my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer before she was postmenopausal, I am at a greater risk of developing it. So, every 6 months, despite my insurance companies unwillingness to cover the procedure, I have an ultrasound to screen for it.

For years, women like me have been hoping and praying for a simple lab test to screen for the illness. The CA-125 is currently used by some physicians as a marker for the cancer but it has a pretty high level of inaccuracy. Lots of false positives. Quite a few false negatives. Definitely not reliable. You can understand, then, my excitement about OvaSure.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a bit of controversy surrounding this test. Specifically, the FDA is concerned that LabCorp doesn't have sufficient evidence that the test either prolongs survival or identifies the cancer before its been diagnosed. What it did do was to correctly identify early cancer in those who'd already received an early stage diagnosis. Its a subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless. Some are also concerned that a negative test may discourage women from having surgery who need it while a positive test could encourage women to have surgery who don't need it.

Now, I understand the concerns but in my experience, very little of medicine is definitive. Its about taking as much information as you can gather, making the best decision you can make, and relying on faith to fill in the gaps. If this test can be another tool in arsenal against ovarian cancer, I say train people on how to use it, and let it do its job. As for me, I'll be adding it to my screening regimen - despite my insurance company's unwillingness to cover the cost.

A Note About Ovarian Cancer... Ovarian Cancer is known as the silent cancer. Early symptoms are vague and later symptoms often mimic more common gastrointestinal or bladder disorders. If you have any of these symptoms, consider asking your doctor about the possibility of screening for ovarian cancer. Remember, it's your body and you have every right to take an active role in keeping it healthy.

Most Common Symptoms
Abdominal Pressure or Fullness
Swollen Abdomen
Pelvic pain

Associated Symptoms
Frequent urination
Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
Unexplained changes in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation
Changes in bladder habits, including a frequent need to urinate
Loss of appetite
Unexplained weight loss or gain
Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
Pain during intercourse (dyspareunia)
A persistent lack of energy
Low back pain