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Ovarian Cancer Australia responds to results of 30 year screening trial

13 May 2021

~ 4 minutes

Australia, 13th May 2021: Researchers from the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) today reported that despite being able to detect ovarian cancer early, the trial did not translate to saving lives.

The results published in The Lancet today follow a study that spanned three decades and involved 200,000 postmenopausal women, looking into the long-term impact of screening on ovarian cancer mortality.

Responding to the results, CEO of Ovarian Cancer Australia Jane Hill said, “We are very disappointed to hear this screening trial has not delivered the outcome we all wished for, especially after so many years of hard work from the research team. However our disappointment pales in significance to the struggles and isolation that women living with ovarian cancer face on a daily basis.

“But hope is not lost. There are many ups and downs in the world of research, and we continue to advocate for advances in ovarian cancer. We’re still hopeful we’re closer to a breakthrough than ever before.”  

This sentiment is shared by Professor Ian Jacobs, Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales, Ovarian Cancer Australia board member and Co-Investigator of UKCTOCS from 2001-2014.

“The study has advanced understanding of ovarian cancer as well as other diseases. This was a very large trial conducted with rigor and with enormous attention to detail and the UKCTOCS team has created a rich resource of data for researchers who will now continue the work on ovarian cancer.”

“I am enormously grateful to the thousands of women, healthcare professionals and researchers who made this trial possible.”

In Australia, more than 1500 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, and three women die each day from the disease. Currently only 46% of women diagnosed will survive past five years.

“On behalf of every woman impacted by ovarian cancer, we thank every researcher working each day to help changes the outcomes of this insidious disease,” Ms. Hill continues.

“We will continue to advocate for more research to progress care and treatment and support those women living with the disease and their loved ones. Our hope is for a cure for all women with ovarian cancer. Until then, we hope that advances in treatments will lead to better survival rates and better quality of life for all those affected.”

One of these women is Sydney’s Christy Smith who calls her journey with ovarian cancer “a roller coaster experience, with the lows of the shock of my diagnosis going to highs of finding this newfound inner strength I didn’t know I had.”

Christy adds, “Before my diagnosis, I had no idea what ovarian cancer and I feel so blessed to be able to be in a position now where I can raise awareness for this scary disease. In the future, I hope we can all have more conversations on what the signs and symptoms are and find a way to help women detect the disease earlier to increase their chance of survival.”

Australians can support these women with ovarian cancer by purchasing a pair of Overies undies as part of Ovarian Cancer Australia’s current Overies for Ovaries campaign. Costing from just $14, this is a simple and affordable way to support woman living with the disease. They are available at Bonds, Bras & Things and Jockey online and in-store for a limited time only. Find out more by visiting the website. 


For more information, access the UKCTOCS briefing paper.

To speak to an OCA ovarian cancer nurse, phone our Helpline on 1300 660 334.

Notes to Editors 

About the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening

  • The trial looked at data from women whose progress was followed up for an average of 16 years.

  • Women aged between 50 and 74 were enrolled in the trial between 2001 and 2005.

  • Screening lasted until 2011 and was either an annual blood test, monitoring changes in the level of the protein CA125, or a yearly vaginal ultrasound scan.

  • The women were randomly allocated to one of three groups: no screening, screening in the form of an annual ultrasound scan, and annual ‘multimodal’ screening involving a blood test as an initial test followed by ultrasound as a second test.

  • Testing two different screening methods, the trial found no evidence that either screening approach reduced deaths from ovarian cancer, compared to no screening. However it was able to detect the cancer before women became symptomatic.

Acknowledgement flags

Ovarian Cancer Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where our office is located, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation and we pay our respects to Elders past and present.