Ultrasounds can identify a woman’s risk of eventually developing highly deadly ovarian cancer

A simple ultrasound may be able to detect signs that a woman is at risk for ovarian cancer, potentially avoiding unnecessary surgery to treat the highly deadly cancer, a study finds. 

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York found that an ultrasound can determine whether an ovarian lesion is benign or can eventually become cancerous.

By doing so, they can more accurately identify which women require surgery to repair or remove these lesions, preventing the deadly cancer from developing. 

Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers for women, more than half of cases resulting in death, and 13,000 Americans dying from it every year.

Researchers found that a simple ultrasound can determine whether an ovarian lesion is benign or malignant, reliving women of the stress of further diagnostic testing (file photo)

Researchers, who published their findings Tuesday in the journal Radiology, gathered data from 1,205 women who received screenings and had some sort of abnormality detected. 

Of than group, 878 women were used in the study, with 970 ovarian lesions between them. None of the participants had increased risk factors for the disease.

Lesions are small tissue matters that can appear on different parts of the body. They can either be benign or malignant – which means they have cancerous growth. 

A vast majority of lesions are ‘classic’ lesions that carry little risk of developing into cancer, while ‘non-classic’ lesions – which usually have detectable blood flow – have risks.

‘If you have something that follows the classic imaging patterns described for these lesions, then the risk of cancer is really low,’ Dr Akshya Gupta, lead of author of the study from the University of Rochester said in a statement.

‘If you have something that’s not classic in appearance, then the presence of solid components and particularly the presence of Doppler blood flow is really what drives the risk of malignancy.’ 

The ultrasounds in the study could identify lesions, and with 92% accuracy determine whether they were malignant

The ultrasounds in the study could identify lesions, and with 92% accuracy determine whether they were malignant

Only 53 of the 970 lesions were found to be malignant, or six percent. The ultrasound was able to detect them with 93 percent accuracy.

One percent of lesions identified by the ultrasound to be a ‘classic’ lesion was found to be malignant.

Usually when a lesion is found, a woman needs follow up doctor visits to determine whether or not it is cancerous, and sometimes will even require surgery to remove the lesion before it develops into something more dangerous.

It can be an anxiety-inducing experience for women as well, knowing that most likely they will be ok, but the slight chance of developing a deadly cancer will still exist.

Detecting benign and malignant lesions via ultrasound can shorten what could be a long, scary, process for many women.  

‘Based on the characteristics that we see on ultrasound, we try to evaluate if a finding needs further workup and where the patient should go from there,’ Gupta said. 

Ovarian cancer can be a potentially devastating diagnoses for women as well. Only around half of women that are diagnosed with it live beyond five years.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), one in 78 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and one in every 104 will die from it.

Just under 20,000 women are diagnosed every year, and it causes around 13,000 deaths per year, the ACS reports.

One reason for its especially low survival rate when compared to other cancers is how late many women actually realize they are sick.

Many women will start feeling symptoms of the cancer, and chalk it up to being bloated or other gut issues.

Only once it reaches a point where it causes serious pain do women often bring the issue up to a doctor, and by then it is usually far enough along in the process that it has caused legitimate harm to a woman. 

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