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UK Research Recommends Ultrasound Rather Than Surgery for Ovarian Cysts

By Tammy Gay

 

The Ovarian Cancer Screening Program at UK Markey Cancer Center, which began in 1987, screens women using transvaginal sonography. Since the Ovarian Cancer Screening Program began, the Kentucky Extension Homemakers have supported the program by participating in regular screens and by donating $1 per member annually.

 

Feb. 3, 2003 (Lexington, Ky.) -- Surgery may not be necessary for women with ovarian cysts as large as 4 inches in diameter. A 15-year University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center study shows the risk of cancer developing due to simple ovarian cysts is low.

John R. van Nagell Jr., M.D., chief, Division of Gynecologic Oncology, UK College of Medicine, presented the findings today at the Society of Gynecologic Oncology annual conference in New Orleans.

In the study 15,106 women aged 50 and older participated in the UK Ovarian Cancer Screening study and received an annual transvaginal sonography. Of the women screened, 2,761 had simple cysts. But, only 79 had surgery because their cyst did not go away or was causing pain; and 54 had their ovaries removed during a hysterectomy or other surgical procedure. None of the women had ovarian malignancies.

The women with cysts had follow-up sonographies every three to six months for an average of six years. However, most cysts resolved spontaneously within three months.

The Ovarian Cancer Screening Program at UK Markey Cancer Center, which began in 1987, screens women using transvaginal sonography. Since the Ovarian Cancer Screening Program began, the Kentucky Extension Homemakers have supported the program by participating in regular screens and by donating $1 per member annually.

During the examination, a small probe is placed in the vagina to take a sonogram, a kind of “picture,” of the ovaries and to measure the volume in the ovaries. The procedure is painless, radiation-free and can be completed in five to 10 minutes. Participants are screened annually.

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women, and is the fifth leading cause of death due to cancer in women. Ovarian cancer is the most lethal of all gynecological cancers. More women die from ovarian cancer than any other reproductive organ cancer.

Transvaginal ultrasound can detect ovarian cancer early and identify other abnormalities such as cysts. In the past, these cysts would be removed. However, recent studies have shown cysts less than 2 inches in diameter were unlikely to be malignant and only needed to be monitored with sonography.

Other University of Kentucky College of Medicine Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology faculty and staff participating in the study included Susan C. Modesitt, M.D., assistant professor; Frederick R. Ueland, M.D., assistant professor; Paul D. DePriest, M.D., associate professor; and Edward J. Pavlik, Ph.D., director of research. Richard J. Kryscio, Ph.D., director of the Biostatistics Consulting Unit with the UK Chandler Medical Center, also participated in the study.


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