(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Completing a simple symptom survey can effectively identify women with symptoms that may indicate ovarian cancer, results of a study in the September 2012 issue of Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology have found.

This first evaluation of an ovarian cancer symptom-screening tool in a primary care setting assessed normal-risk women as part of their routine medical-history assessment. Use of the tool detected 1 patient with a positive Symptom Index who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, while none with a negative Symptom Index developed the disease, M. Robyn Andersen, PhD, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, and colleagues reported.

Given the recent recommendation against ovarian cancer screening and until better biomarkers for the disease are identified and tested, completing the “quick paper and pencil form” was found to be “acceptable to most women and providers” in a study of 1,200 women ages 40 to 87 years seen in a women’s health clinic.

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During the study, the effectiveness and feasibility of several different symptom screening surveys were evaluated, with the version proving most effect asking three questions regarding whether a woman was currently experiencing one of more of the following symptoms, all previously linked to ovarian cancer: abdominal and/or pelvic pain; feeling full quickly and/or unable to eat normally; and abdominal bloating and/or increased abdomen size. Also queried was frequency and duration of symptoms.

More than half of the women were postmenopausal; 90% were white. Approximately half of the clinic visits were for a current health concern or for a follow-up visit and the remainder for appointments such as mammography screening.

Of those surveyed, 60 women (5%) had a positive symptom score, indicating the need for further testing. One woman was subsequently diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Of the 95% who tested negative, none developed ovarian cancer during a 12-month follow-up period.

“Women coming to the clinic because of a current medical concern or problem did have higher rates of positive Symptom Index results, as did non-white women (P<0.05),” they reported. The screening tool takes less than 5 minutes to complete.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research.