CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- A doctor at UVA Cancer Center has released findings of a medical study that suggest tampons could help detect ovarian cancer. That, he said, could lead to catching the cancer early enough to save the lives of thousands of women.
"Gynecologic malignancies such as cervical cancer can be detected at early stages through regular pap smears," UVA Cancer Center gynecologic oncologist Dr. Chip Landen Jr. said. "But similar screening is not available for ovarian cancer, which often presents in an advanced stage when the cancer has spread."
Thirty-three woman participated in the study which called for them to insert a tampon the night before their surgery for potential ovarian cancer.
Five of the women ended up having ovarian cancer and intact fallopian tubes.
Of those five women, three (60 percent) had DNA from the tumor in the tampon, doctors said.
"While more research is needed to improve the sensitivity of the test, the fact that in some cases tumor DNA was found in the vaginal canal is promising," Landen said.
He added the test needed to be improved so no women with cancer would be missed.
"This is exciting proof that cancer cells can make it through the gynecologic tract and be detected in a noninvasive way with something as simple as a tampon,” Landen said.
He said talks were underway to open up a larger study to test the tampon-cancer connection on more women.