A new MRI tool can identify difficult-to-diagnose cases of ovarian cancer. (Credit: Imperial College of London)

A new MRI tool can identify cases of ovarian cancer that are difficult to diagnose using standard methods. The tool has produced encouraging results in a clinical study and its impact on management and outcomes of women with ovarian cancer will now be evaluated in a major trial at 18 hospitals.

The tool distinguishes between malignant and benign ovarian cysts with 90 percent accuracy, in cases that cannot be distinguished on ultrasound. The team believes that the new tool can be used as a triage test to decide whether patients need further follow up or treatment. They also believe that the findings from the study could help stratify patients who are high risk so they can be given treatment at a much earlier stage.

Currently, to investigate potential cases of ovarian cancer doctors use ultrasound scanning and blood tests. However, in a quarter of cases these methods cannot identify with confidence whether a patient’s cyst in benign or malignant. This leads to surgical investigations, which are invasive and carry risks, such as potential loss of fertility. In most cases women are then diagnosed as having benign cysts.