CA125 test result, test-to-diagnosis interval, and stage in ovarian cancer at diagnosis: a retrospective cohort study using electronic health records.

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In the UK, the cancer antigen 125 (CA125) test is recommended as a first-line investigation in women with symptoms of possible ovarian cancer.To compare time between initial primary care CA125 test and diagnosis, tumour morphology, and stage in women with normal (<35 U/ml) and abnormal (≥35 U/ml) CA125 levels prior to ovarian cancer diagnosis.Retrospective cohort study using English primary care and cancer registry data.Associations between CA125 test results and test-to-diagnosis interval, stage, and ovarian cancer morphology were examined.In total, 456 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the 12 months after having a CA125 test. Of these, 351 (77%) had an abnormal, and 105 (23%) had a normal, CA125 test result. The median test-to-diagnosis interval was 35 days (interquartile range [IQR] 21-53) for those with abnormal CA125 levels, and 64 days (IQR 42-127) for normal CA125 levels. Tumour morphology differed by CA125 result: indolent borderline tumours were less common in those with abnormal CA125 levels (n = 47, 13%) than those with normal CA125 levels (n = 51, 49%) (P<0.001). Staging data were available for 304 women with abnormal, and 77 with normal, CA125 levels. Of those with abnormal CA125 levels, 35% (n = 106) were diagnosed at an early stage, compared to 86% (n = 66) of women with normal levels. The odds of being diagnosed with early-stage disease were higher in women with normal as opposed to abnormal CA125 levels (odds ratio 12.2, 95% confidence interval = 5.8 to 25.1, P<0.001).Despite longer intervals between testing and diagnosis, women with normal, compared with abnormal, CA125 levels more frequently had indolent tumours and were more commonly diagnosed at an early stage in the course of the disease. Although testing approaches that have greater sensitivity might expedite diagnosis for some women, it is not known if this would translate to earlier-stage diagnosis.

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Authors: Garth Funston, Luke Ta Mounce, Sarah Price, Brian Rous, Emma J Crosbie, Willie Hamilton, Fiona M Walter