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Ovarian cancer diagnosis

The chance of successful treatment for ovarian cancer is much higher, and if the cancer is detected early and diagnosed accurately, the chance of successful treatment is high.

Detection of ovarian cancer

If you have symptoms that may indicate ovarian cancer, your doctor will examine you and ask questions about your health and family medical history. One or more of the following ovarian cancer tests can be used to determine if you have the disease and if it has spread. These tests can also be used to determine if a treatment is working.

Pelvic examination

The doctor inserts one or two gloved fingers into the vagina and compresses the lower abdomen with the other hand. Usually, the doctor feels the deeper pelvis while placing his fingers on the vagina and rectum. A pelvic exam helps to find out if there are lumps on both sides of the uterus. It could be a sign of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cyst

In some other cases, the lump may be an ovarian cyst. Ovarian cysts are solid or fluid-filled sacs on the ovaries that are usually not cancerous, although the risk increases with age.

Blood tests for ovarian cancer

This blood test measures your levels of CA-125, a protein made by ovarian cancer cells. CA-125 is considered a tumor marker because its levels are generally higher in women with ovarian cancer. It is most reliable when testing for CA-125 levels is used to find cancer that has returned after treatment. Doctors observe changes in CA-125 levels over time.

Measuring CA-125 levels can also be used to:

See if the treatment works

Predict whether a treatment will be effective for ovarian cancer and other types of cancer

Ca-125 alone does not detect ovarian cancer. A high level of CA-125 does not always mean you have ovarian cancer. Other conditions can increase CA-125 levels. Low CA-125 levels don't mean you don't have cancer. Some types of ovarian cancer produce only low levels of CA-125 or none at all.

Ovarian cancer biopsy

The only way to know for sure if a tumor is ovarian cancer is for a doctor to remove cells from the tumor and look at them under a microscope (biopsy). Tissue can be removed by:

Surgical operation


Fine needle puncture

Ovarian cancer imaging

CT or CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan

Magnetic resonance imaging scan

Positron emission tomography

A chest X-ray

Transvaginal ultrasound: A wand scanner is placed into the vagina. It has a small ultrasonic device at the end.

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