If you have symptoms that suggest ovarian cancer, your provider will conduct a physical exam and a variety of tests. You will also be asked about your personal and family medical history. Dr. Malone, can you tell us more about what’s involved in diagnosing ovarian cancer?
Certainly, Dr. Patel. During a physical exam, you will be checked for general signs of health. Your provider may also perform a pelvic exam, feeling the ovaries and nearby organs for lumps or other changes in their size and shape. Although a Pap test is part of a normal pelvic exam, it is not used to test for ovarian cancer.
Blood tests may be taken to check for any irregularities, including the presence of something called CA-125. CA-125 is a substance that can be found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells. The level of CA-125 can be high in women with ovarian cancer but can also be high in many other, noncancerous conditions. For that reason, this test is not generally used as a screening test for ovarian cancer.
Besides taking a history and performing a physical exam, there are other tests your provider may order to help diagnose ovarian cancer. Your provider may conduct or order an ultrasound to determine if an ovarian tumor is present. Ovarian cancers have certain features on ultrasound that distinguish it from benign ovarian masses. Other tests may include a CT scan, a chest x-ray, a barium enema, or a colonoscopy.
Your provider will recommend the best single test or combination of tests in order to accurately diagnose your condition. Remember, the earlier ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances are for survival. Unfortunately, while these tests can help accurately diagnose ovarian cancer after symptoms present, no combination of testing and imaging has been found to be good for screening for ovarian cancer.