55ºF

New ovarian cancer test could reduce ovarian cancer deaths by 20 percent

HPV vaccine proves to reduce viruses that cause cervical cancer

HOUSTON – There's no test for early ovarian cancer.

"They used to call it the silent killer because you usually don't have any symptoms until you're in very advanced stages," Dr. Lacey Krebsbach explained.

Krebsbach says women who have a family history need regular screening.

"The signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are very vague and they seem like they may not be related, and so it's hard to tease through problems or symptoms that a patient might be having," she said.

Researchers found combining a blood test with ultrasound scans could reduce ovarian cancer deaths by 20 percent.

But Krebsbach says elevated blood levels aren't always an indication of cancer.

"Just getting that as a screening test is not recommended, because it could be elevated during certain times of the menstrual cycle, endometriosis and smokers, people with liver disease. And so it's not as specific as it needs to be," Krebsbach said.

The biggest risk factors for ovarian cancer are age and family history.

With cervical cancer, HPV is the big culprit.

Though most diseases can be cleared, there are some aggressive ones that stick around.

“Our way to manage that is that we are recommending young women and young men as young as 10 and 11 years old to start getting the HPV vaccine. There are a few vaccines out there, but Gardasil is probably the most well-known," she said.

The idea is to get vaccinated early, before young people become sexually active.

"If you come in contact with these viruses, getting the vaccine at that point, is not going to be helpful for that specific strain. But since there are so many out there, it still can protect you from some of the aggressive ones," Krebsbach explained.

The HPV vaccine is only recommended up until the age of 26. After that, women can still get the vaccine though it may not be as effective.

New research released last month, confirms the HPV vaccine has reduced sexually transmitted virus that cause cervical cancer by almost two-thirds in teenage girls.