Screening test for one of our most deadly cancers is one step closer

It’s sometimes referred to as the ‘silent killer’, the cancer that no one sees coming. But there’s fresh hope that

It’s sometimes referred to as the ‘silent killer’, the cancer that no one sees coming. But there’s fresh hope that screening women for ovarian cancer could save lives.

One of the largest randomised trials ever conducted has concluded that ovarian cancer screening may reduce death rates from the disease by an estimated 20 per cent.

The United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS), led for 30 years by University of NSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs was coordinated from University College London (UCL) and screened more than 200,000 post-menopausal women.

The screening is based on an annual blood test called ROCA (Risk of Ovarian Cancer Algorithm), which uses a statistical calculation to interpret changing levels over time of a blood protein, CA125, which is linked to ovarian cancer.

Participants in the trial – the world’s largest for ovarian cancer screening – were followed for up to 14 years. Longer follow-up is needed to determine the ultimate mortality reduction and if screening the general population is cost effective.

Speaking from London, where the results are being announced to trial participants and collaborators, Professor Jacobs said the findings provided “a key piece in the jigsaw necessary for effective ovarian cancer screening”.

“I am delighted that the UKCTOCS results suggest that early detection of ovarian cancer by screening can save lives. Longer follow up is needed but this brings hope in the fight against a disease for which the outlook for women is poor and has not improved much during the last three decades.

“Our research team has previously established that screening is acceptable to women, has a high detection rate and a low false positive rate.

“Now we have the first evidence to suggest screening can reduce the number of women dying from the disease by an estimated 15 per cent to 28 per cent,” Professor Jacobs said.

Ovarian cancer continues to be diagnosed at an advanced stage, with 60 per cent of patients dying within five years of diagnosis. UKCTOCS tested the hypothesis that screening for ovarian cancer in the general population can reduce disease mortality without significant harm (as compared with screening programs for other cancers).

“I am passionate about pushing ahead with research that has the potential to save the lives of the thousands of women threatened by ovarian cancer each year. My hope is that by the end of my career, ovarian cancer screening will be established as a standard test around the world alongside breast and cervical cancer screening,” Professor Jacobs said.

Would you mind having a blood test every year to screen for ovarian cancer? Has your life been touched by this disease?


  1. That’s wonderful, I had to beautiful friends who died from this aggressive cancer one at age 47 the other at 51 years old, it would be wonderful if they make this screening part of regular blood testing for young women.

  2. My mother died of undetected (until the last month of her life) Ovarian cancer. I asked my doctor what I could do to check on this now that I’m about the age when it would have started for her. To have a PSA test he HAD TO HAVE A REASON for ordering the blood test. I can’t wait for a simple test to take this ogre away from me.

    • My point is, as health budgets get cut further and further – this is the type of thing that gets swept away. I had the test because I had a reason. PSA test is no real comfort anyway.

    • My mother in law was diagnosed 3 months before her death. If there is a blood test available it should be an annual test for all women.

      • Shanti  

        If there is the remotest chance of saving just ONE woman’s life from this dreadful disease, annual testing should be made available. Immediately!

    • A PSA is for prostate cancer, is a routine annual screening test for MEN, as we women don’t have a prostate it would be pointless. The CA125 for ovarian cancer is falsely positive in about 45% of women tested and this requires further invasive investigation which is why it has never become mainstream. Perhaps with refinement this will change, I hope so anyway.

    • I couldn’t be bothered looking for the exact test letters – but then I thought “How long ago did I have this done?” That made me scrabble around and find the file. It is close to 3 years ago. I wonder if I qualify to have the test done again or would this government class me as a “leaner”. Yes, I see the letters are CA125. which has to be less than 35. I used to work for a company called PSA.

    • Leone, I love your saying, can’t be arsed looking for the right name. What does it matter? I knew what you meant. Ask for it again. My mother’s doctor told me 3 times it was malignant ovarian cancer, and when the tests finally came back, it was borderline. So I know the scare and fear that was with the diagnosis. I worry about getting ovarian cancer, have already had cervical cancer and an hysterectomy 20 years ago. They did not take the ovaries, I sure wish they had. So sorry about your Mum.

    • Janice Kathleen Marsh Thanks Janice. These days I often can’t be arsed to do any damn thing. I will chase up on Ovarian cancer tests now that I know how long it’s been because it does bother me.

    • I was told by my oncologist and gynaecological oncologist that they could test my CA125 every day for a month and they would get a different result each time, it’s not a definitive answer.

  3. this test will only be available to those who can pay with the lnp budget cuts

    • Without being political, funding was cut by 60% under Julia Gillard’s govt. the Libs have not reversed this shocking reduction so both parties have a lot to answer for.

  4. I lost a dearest friend five years ago and before she went,I said to her,now when you get to the other side,you get in there and barnstorm Heaven for a test and cure! This is wonderful news,and we eagerly await the cure.

  5. My mother died 22 yrs ago on New Years day from diagnosis of this insidious disease 1 year earlier. She was given 6 mths at most but her will to live and naturopathic diet and treatment gave her another 6 mths. Albeit a lot of that time was not with quality of life. Many visits to hospital for ascites drainage etc. Thankfully it does not appear to be hereditary as we 4 daughters have all tested negative for the gene. My own daughter also.

  6. Liz  

    My sister died from this horrible cancer & I would gladly have a blood test every year to screen for ovarian cancer.

  7. I think this is a wonderful idea and hope it is in general use sooner rather than later. We are losing too many to this horrible insidious desease

  8. It’s been around for sometime. I was basically told it wasn’t accurate enough to warrant adding to my screening blood tests, despite mutant gene and horrific family history including my own advanced breast cancer.

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