This discovery could lead to earlier diagnosis and improved survival rates.
The Early Show medical contributor Dr. Emily Senay outlined these findings.
Senay expects that several oncology groups will issue new recommendations regarding when women ought to seek medical attention. The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, the Society for Gynecologic Oncologists and the American Cancer Society will urge women to see their doctors if they experience a particular set of symptoms.
If the following symptoms are experienced every day for two to three consecutive weeks, women should seek medical attention:
While these symptoms are "vague," Senay said, seek out your gynecologist if they are not typical for your normal state of health.
To determine if you have ovarian cancer, doctors will perform a physical examination followed by a blood test and possibly an ultrasound.
"The good news," Senay said, "is that in the vast majority of cases it's not going to be ovarian cancer."
The goal is to change the prevailing wisdom about these symptoms. Senay said, "There are so many stories of women who went in and said, 'I've been having these symptoms' and the doctors say, 'It's just your menstrual cycle, or, you're just getting older'."
Prior to this discovery, doctors didn't believe you could find this cancer early, and, by the time of diagnosis, the cancer was usually advanced. This belief changed when experts observed patients experiencing telling symptoms in the months preceding diagnosis.
The American Cancer Society states, "Finding the cancer early improves the chances for successful treatment. Nine out of 10 women treated for early ovarian will live longer than five years after the cancer is found." Click here for more information on detecting ovarian cancer.
The National Cancer Institute reported over 22,000 cases of ovarian cancer in the United States in 2007 and over 15,000 fatalities. With this new discovery, there is the potential for these statistics to decrease, since women will be seeking medical attention earlier, Senay said.