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According to an article recently published in the journal Gynecologic Oncology, physical examinations only detected 35% of cancer recurrences among patients with ovarian or peritoneal cancers.

Ovarian cancer is the most deadly form of gynecologic cancer for women in the United States. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of ovarian cancers are detected once they have spread from the ovaries. Peritoneal cancer originates within the peritoneum, the thin membrane lining the abdominal wall and the internal organs of the abdomen.

CA-125 levels are often elevated in the presence of ovarian or peritoneal cancers and can be detected in circulating blood. Patients who have been diagnosed with ovarian or peritoneal cancers often have CA-125 levels tested prior to treatment, as well as during treatment and following therapy. Patients who have received treatment for these cancers undergo follow-up visits to their physician so that potential recurrences may be detected and treated in their earliest and most curable stages.

Researchers from Israel recently conducted a study to evaluate the effectiveness of physical examinations in the detection of recurrences among women who had been diagnosed and treated for ovarian or peritoneal cancers. This study included 69 patients who had elevated CA-125 levels prior to treatment. Participants had achieved a complete disappearance of cancer following therapy.

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  • Forty-three of these patients experienced a cancer recurrence.
  • A physical examination detected only 34.9% of recurrences.

The researchers concluded that a physical examination is not a very reliable method of detecting recurrences among women with ovarian or peritoneal cancers. Detection of recurrences at their earliest possible stage, prior to symptoms, is the ultimate goal of follow-up monitoring for women with either of these cancers.

Women who have been diagnosed with and treated for ovarian or peritoneal cancers should speak with their physician regarding the most effective ways to monitor for recurrences.

Reference: Menczer J, Chetrit A, Sadetzki S, et al. Follow-up of Ovarian and Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma: The Value of Physical Examination in Patients with Pretreatment Elevated CA125 Levels. Gynecologic Oncology. 2006; 103: 137-140.

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