After her mother died of ovarian cancer, Lee Radsch decided one thing she could do was participate in the Ovarian Cancer Screening Study (CA-125) to protect her health and the health of others. “If there’s a way to contribute for the health of future generations, it’s a good thing,” she said. “Participating in this study is one of the easiest and most gratifying things that I can do.”
Radsch has taken part in the CA-125 clinical trial since 2011 when Atlantic Health System signed on to the national early detection study. The landmark study uses a simple blood test for the CA-125 protein to screen women at low risk for ovarian cancer. The purpose of the clinical trial is to help determine whether this test can catch ovarian cancer early in women who would not typically be screened for it.
More than 1,100 women have enrolled in the study at Atlantic Health System hospitals at their Overlook, Morristown, Chilton, Hackettstown and Newton medical centers.
Daniel Tobias, MD, medical director of Gynecologic Oncology and the study’s principal investigator, says “Ovarian cancer accounts for more deaths than any other gynecologic cancer. If caught early, ovarian cancer has a 90% five-year survival rate, but most cancers aren’t detected early enough. We want to not just encourage women at low risk to participate in this study, but for all women, even those who may be at higher risk to speak with their OB-GYN about what types of testing might be appropriate for them.”
Most ovarian cancer is detected at stages 3 or 4, with a 75% chance of recurrence after treatment. The CA-125 blood test is currently only used in women who have had ovarian cancer or who already show symptoms. A high CA-125 marker may indicate the need for further testing; however, by that time, it is often already late-stage cancer.
The Ovarian Cancer Screening Study is available for women 50-74 years old who:
are post-menopausal (no period for one year or longer)
have not had cancer treatment in the past 12 months (speak with study coordinator for exceptions)
have at least one ovary
have a health care provider that provides yearly wellness exams
Only 15% of cases are found in the early stage due to ovarian cancer’s non-specific symptoms and lack of early detection tests. Among the risk factors for ovarian cancer are:
a family history of breast or ovarian cancer
having certain cancer-related genes
a personal history of breast cancer before age 40
Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and a personal history of breast cancer before age 50 or a first or second degree relative with ovarian cancer or breast cancer before age 50