It’s been dubbed the “tampon test” — and it may soon prove to be the most reliable form of early detection for ovarian cancer.
In a new study, researchers found tumor DNA in tampons from women with advanced-stage ovarian cancer, offering proof, they say, that genetic evidence of the disease can be detected in vaginal fluid.
They hope their findings soon will lead to a reliable method for early screenings.
Approximately 22,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. For them, the prognosis is grim: The five-year survival rate is just 44 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
Although ovarian cancer is considered highly treatable in its early stages, most women are not diagnosed until the cancer is advanced.
The study, published in the journal “Obstetrics & Gynecology,” looked at 33 patients who had been diagnosed with a pelvic mass, eight of whom had advanced ovarian cancer.
Of these “high-risk” patients, three had previously had their tubes tied, making it impossible for cancer cells to migrate to the vagina.
Of the remaining five whose fallopian tubes were still intact, three had cells in their vaginal secretions (taken from tampons they used) that had the same genetic mutation as cells found in their tumors.
Now that researchers have shown that cancerous cells are present in vaginal fluid, the focus will shift to developing a test that is sensitive enough for women in low-risk groups.
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