Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis

Dr. Emese Zsiros discusses ovarian cysts

Getting it right from the start

If you have symptoms that suggest ovarian cancer, your doctor must find out whether it is due to cancer or to some other cause. You may have one or more of the following tests or procedures:

  • Physical exam: Your doctor checks general signs of health. Your doctor may press on your abdomen to check for an unusual mass or an abnormal fluid buildup (ascites). A sample of fluid may be taken to look for ovarian cancer cells during an outpatient procedure called paracentesis.
  • Pelvic exam: Your doctor feels the ovaries and nearby organs for lumps or other changes in their shape or size. The Pap test, which collects cervical cells to examine for cervical cancer does not collect ovarian cells and is not used to detect or diagnose ovarian cancer.
  • Blood tests: Your doctor may order blood tests. The lab may check the level of several substances, including CA-125. (A high or low level of CA-125 doesn’t determine whether or not you have cancer, but doctors look at how this level may change over time.)
  • Biopsy: A biopsy removes a sample of tissue or fluid to examine for cancer cells. These tissue or fluid samples are sent to a pathologist to examine under microscope and conduct testing to determine definitively whether cancer is present. A biopsy may be taken through surgery such as laparoscopy or fine-needle aspiration.
  • Imaging tests may be used to “see” inside the body to evaluate the likelihood of ovarian cancer. These may include:
    • Transvaginal ultrasound uses an ultrasound device inserted into the vagina for a better picture of the ovaries.
    • Computed Tomograpy (CT) may help find other causes for your symptoms