Could Tampons Help Diagnose Ovarian Cancer?

According to a story from Medical Xpress, three medical students at Florida International University are hoping to see if DNA collected from tampons could help detect ovarian cancer. There is currently no screening test for ovarian cancer and as a result it if often detected at an advanced stage.

About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer can form within or on the ovary. This form of cancer can be dangerous because it rarely presents with symptoms in its early stages when it is most treatable, or the symptoms are so vague that it is easy for doctors to attribute them to a less serious disease. Women who have ovulated the most over their lifetimes are at greater risk. Other possible risk factors for ovarian cancer include hormone replacement therapy, fertility medication, hormonal conditions, certain genetic mutations, and exposure to talc and herbicides. Caucasian women are at greater risk and so are women in developed nations. Symptoms include back pain, abdominal pain, bloating, painful sex, indigestion, loss of appetite, and fatigue. There are many different kinds of ovarian cancer, so many different treatment approaches may be attempted, such as surgery, radiation, chemo, hormone therapy, and immunotherapy. Five year survival rate for ovarian cancer is 45 percent in the US. To learn more about ovarian cancer, click here.

About The Study

A significant risk factor for ovarian cancer is mutations of the BRCA gene. Such mutations can dramatically increase the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer in women. With this in mind, the students plan to recruit a group of 30 women who have tested positive for these mutations, collect their DNA from tampons, and then see if they can detect signs of ovarian cancer.

The test is similar to an earlier one in which mutations of the TP53 gene, which are a sign of active ovarian cancer, were detected in DNA taken from tampons from already diagnosed patients with advanced disease. This new study hopes to see if this mutation can be found before patients begin to present the signs and symptoms that are characteristic of the disease. If successful, this could be a useful method for detecting ovarian cancer much earlier on when it is easier to treat.


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