Lead author M. Robyn Andersen of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center's Public Health Sciences Division and colleagues said early detection of ovarian cancer is key to survival -- cure rates for those diagnosed when the disease is confined to the ovary are approximately 70 percent to 90 percent.
But more than 70 percent of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed with advanced-stage disease, when the survival rate is only 20 percent to 30 percent, Andersen said.
The researchers evaluated the effectiveness and feasibility of several different symptom screening surveys and found three questions as potentially indicative of ovarian cancer:
-- Abdominal and/or pelvic pain.
-- Feeling full quickly and/or unable to eat normally.
-- Abdominal bloating and/or increased abdomen size.
The survey also asked about the frequency and duration of these symptoms: how many days a month and for how long?
"Symptoms such as pelvic pain and abdominal bloating may be a sign of ovarian cancer but they also can be caused by other conditions," Andersen said in a statement. "What's important is to determine whether they are current, of recent onset and occur frequently."
Previous research by Andersen and colleagues found about 60 percent of women with early stage ovarian cancer and 80 percent of women with advanced disease report symptoms that follow this distinctive pattern at the time of diagnosis.