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Potential harms outweigh benefits of indefinite monitoring of stable adnexal masses

The management of women with asymptomatic adnexal masses should aim to balance potential benefit with potential harm. While masses with highly worrisome features or other signs of malignancy should be referred for surgery, the vast majority of masses have an indeterminate or benign appearance and are candidates for observation. Evidence supports the use of initial short-term serial ultrasound in distinguishing between benign and malignant masses. However, benefit from prolonged, potentially life-long monitoring of stable masses has not been demonstrated. Since the goal of monitoring an adnexal mass is to observe for worrisome growth or increasing complexity as an indicator of malignancy, if the mass remains stable, the likelihood of malignancy and therefore, the potential benefit of observation wanes with time. The recognition that Type 2 high grade serous cancers, which are responsible for the majority of deaths from ovarian cancer, arise from fallopian tube rather than ovarian precursors, further diminishes the likelihood that monitoring a stable ovarian mass will lead to early diagnosis of high grade disease. While some Type 1 cancers may develop from ovarian precursors, the available data suggest that any measurable benefit of monitoring known lesions for detection of these cancers is realized within the first year of observation. The argument in favor of indefinite, potentially life-long monitoring of stable masses also fails to adequately account for the risks of perpetual imaging, which include the risk of incidental findings, an increased likelihood of unnecessary surgery, patient anxiety and cost. It is not always better to order a test than not order a test. Given the absence of evidence of benefit, observation of stable small adnexal masses should be limited in duration in order to minimize potential harms.

Authors: Suh-Burgmann E; Kinney W

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Dec;213(6):816.e1-4. Epub 2015-09-09.

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