KANSAS CITY, Mo -- There's no effective way now to screen women for ovarian cancer, so the cancer is usually found too late. But there is new hope that a blood test will save lives.
Carolyn Shandrowski began crocheting afghans for loved ones when she thought she was dying of ovarian cancer. She's lived 13 years since then.
"I don't know why. I don't know if there's a reason why," said Shandrowski.
She knows that more than half of women with ovarian cancer don't survive five years. The disease is usually found when it's advanced and there are symptoms.
"I started complaining to my doctor about a pain in my left side," said Shandrowski.
Unlike breast and cervical cancer, there's no effective screening tool to find ovarian cancer early. But new findings from a huge study of women over 50 in Great Britain show an annual blood test could save lives. There was a 20 percent reduction in deaths with a new version of a blood test called CA 125. This version uses a mathematical formula that looks at a woman's age and the change in a marker for cancer over time.
"I think it's an incredibly important step forward," said Dr. Gary Johnson, a gynecologic oncologist at Saint Luke's Hospital.
But Dr. Johnson says a few more years of study will be necessary to see that the survival benefit holds up or grows stronger.
"It's reasonable to think this could prove to be certain regarding the benefit and thereby that will become available to women as a national screening program," he said.
Shandrowski said, "I wish it could start tomorrow."
She says in the mean time, speak up to your doctor.
"I think we know our bodies and to know that something isn't right," she said.
She says speak up if something could be ovarian cancer. Symptoms include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating and frequent urination or feeling like you have to go.
The new research is published in The Lancet.