New blood test developed in Atlanta could detect ovarian cancer earlier

ATLANTA — Cutting edge research is underway in Atlanta that could prevent deaths from ovarian cancer.

A new blood test that is in final testing at the Ovarian Cancer Institute could detect the deadly cancer in it’s early stages, giving more women a chance to beat the disease.

Ovarian cancer is a personal issue for Channel 2′s Heather Catlin. Her mother, Karen, died of the disease six months ago.

"During her battle, I was shocked to learn that not only are women not routinely tested for ovarian cancer, a reliable test for early stage ovarian cancer didn't even exist," Catlin said.

Before she died, Karen Catlin talked to Channel 2 Action News about her diagnosis.

Catlin was 65 when she started to noticed some changes.

"My eating habits had not changed, but my stomach was very bloated, and I never had a bloated stomach," Karen Catlin said. "I thought, 'Well, I need to get back on the treadmill, because this is not acceptable at all."

She went to the doctor when she also started bleeding. After a series of test, she got the devastating news that she had stage four ovarian cancer.

Before Catlin was diagnosed, she led a healthy lifestyle. She got regular checkups and had no family history of ovarian cancer. She even tested negative for the BRCA mutation, which increases the risk for female cancers.

"When a PA or doctor tells you to sit down you know it's not because they want you to be comfortable. It's because they don't want you to pass out," Catlin said. "I was so unprepared for that news."

Catlin is not alone. One is 78 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime. More than 75% will be diagnosed in the late stages. And the symptoms like bloating, cramping and fatigue mimic those most women experience during menopause and menstruation.

Kathryn Harper is the Executive Director of the Ovarian Cancer Institute at Georgia Tech. She said the reason ovarian cancer is so deadly is because it is so hard to recognize the symptoms.

"It's nicknamed the silent killer for a reason," Harper said. It sneaks up on people."

But the new test that is a major breakthrough for early detection.

The Ovarian Cancer Institute has come up with a simple blood test that can detect ovarian cancer as early as stage 1. In early testing, it's 100% accurate. The final testing is underway and the FDA could begin reviewing the blood test later this year.

Until then, Catlin had a message for all women.

"Don't let this disease rob your life,"Catlin said. "Enjoy your life, because you don't know when the last day of your life is. Don't give up the fun in your life."

Before she died,Catlin told her family to fight like hell to find a cure.

Heather Catlin said that’s what her family intends to do. Heather is chairing an event this week to benefit the Ovarian Cancer Institute. The fundraiser is Thursday at 6:30 at Mission and Market restaurant on Lenox Road in Buckhead.