Ovarian Cancer Center

Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis

If you or your doctor suspects you may have ovarian cancer, or you have a very high risk of developing it, you will undergo certain diagnostic tests. Unfortunately, there are no screening tests for ovarian cancer (as there are for other cancers, like breast cancer or colon cancer). Other specialists who can evaluate symptoms, risk and treatment for ovarian cancer include:.

  • Gynecologic oncologist
  • Gynecologist
  • Internist
  • Obstetrician
  • Medical oncologist

Medical history
To start testing for ovarian cancer, see your family doctor who will ask you about your general health and gently feel the abdomen during a physical exam. Your doctor will also ask you to detail the symptoms you are experiencing.

Medical exams
If a doctor suspects that symptoms are due to ovarian cancer, these tests can confirm or exclude the diagnosis:

BiopsyDuring this test, doctors remove a sample of tumor growth and examine it under a microscope. For ovarian cancer, biopsies are most commonly performed when removing the tumor at surgery, during a laparoscopy procedure or with a needle. If you have a large ovarian cyst and are past menopause or you have a cyst that shows any sign it may contain cancer cells, specialists recommend surgery to have remove the cyst for laboratory analysis.

CA125 blood test
- CA125 is a protein produced by some ovarian cancers that can be found in the blood and alert doctors to the need for further tests.

Chest x-ray – Your doctor may order a chest X-ray to check for any signs that cancer has spread to the lungs or to look for fluid build up around the lung.

CT scan - This type of X-ray takes pictures from different angles to get a detailed picture of the ovaries and surrounding areas. 

Internal exam – Internal examinations are used to check for abnormalities of the womb and ovaries. During the exam, doctors insert two gloved fingers into the vagina to look for any swellings or lumps in the uterus or ovaries. Your doctor may also examine the cervix during an internal exam.

Laparoscopy - This procedure involves inserting a small camera to see inside the body. Laparoscopy may be used to remove a small, benign cyst or an early ovarian cancer. This procedure may also be used to learn whether cancer has spread.

MRI scan - This scan uses magnetism to build up a picture of the body to create an image of the ovaries and surrounding areas.

Positron emission tomography (PET scan) – This test has can be helpful for spotting small collections of cancer cells. During a PET scan radioactive sugar is administered and usually settles in places where cancer is present. A scanner can spot the radioactive deposits and can ovarian cancer that has spread.

Removing abdominal fluid – Specialists can take a sample of fluid to check for cancer cells.

Ultrasound Doctors use abdominal or transvaginal ultrasounds to help diagnose ovarian cancer.

If you are experiencing a symptom that suggests ovarian cancer, your doctor must find out whether it is due to cancer or to some other cause. Test results are bound to take a little time, even if only a day or two. You may feel very anxious during this time, so be sure to communicate with friends or family about your feelings.

To plan for treatment of ovarian cancer, your doctor needs to know the grade of the tumor and the extent (stage) of the disease. To learn more about how doctors and specialists stage ovarian cancer, keep reading. We'll cover the stages of ovarian cancer, including stage 3 ovarian cancer next.

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