Jun 11, 2013

    Remove ovaries? Maybe not

    IF YOU'RE a woman inspired by Hollywood star Angelina Jolie to remove your ovaries in order to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, think again.

    Doctors My Paper spoke to said that ovarian-cancer screening is largely ineffective, compared to screening for other types of cancer, such as cervical cancer.

    "Many studies have shown that doing more CA125 (blood tests) and pelvic ultrasound scans has only increased treatment of non-cancer cases," said gynaecologist Anthony Siow.

    Dr Siow is also the medical director of the Parkway Gynaecology Screening and Treatment Centre in Gleneagles Hospital.

    In an article he wrote for the May and June issue of the medical magazine for doctors, Medical Grapevine Asia, he cited a 2006 trial conducted by the National Cancer Institute in the United States, which found that screening did not reduce ovarian-cancer mortality rates.

    Dr Siow wrote that 15 per cent of the women who underwent surgery due to false-positive results experienced at least one serious complication.

    Professor Tay Sun Kuie, senior consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Singapore General Hospital, said: "This cancer does not have a pre-malignant phase.

    "A normal ovary develops into a cancer abruptly... making it difficult to detect it at an early stage."

    This is further complicated by the fact that ovarian cancer spreads easily and quickly within the pelvis and abdomen to become a late-stage cancer, Prof Tay added.

    He advised against elective removal of the ovaries because women at risk of developing ovarian cancer can have the same cancer developing from tissue surrounding the ovaries.

    Ovarian cancer is currently the fifth-most-common cancer among Singaporean women, accounting for 1,506 cases or 5.4 per cent of all female cancers diagnosed from 2007 to 2011. Women over 35, who have no history of pregnancy and who do not treat pelvic endometriosis are at greatest risk.

    Singapore Cancer Society chief executive Albert Ching said: "We encourage women not to ignore the signs and symptoms."