Although there is no reliable test to detect ovarian cancer, several procedures may help doctors diagnose the disease. Screening for ovarian cancer begins with a pelvic exam. The doctor examines the vagina, rectum and lower abdomen for masses or growths.
If the pelvic exam reveals growths on the ovaries, doctors can order tests that produce detailed images of the ovaries, as well as other tests and procedures. Depending on your situation, these tests and procedures might include:
- Ultrasound. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce precise images of structures within your body.
- CT scan. A CT scan generates two-dimensional images of your body and can show whether the cancer has spread.
- Positron emission tomographic scan (PET). A PET scan defines areas with altered blood supply and can help to identify cancer.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This test uses magnetic energy to generate highly detailed images of your anatomy, including tumors.
- Blood tests. For women who suspect ovarian cancer or who have previously had ovarian cancer, doctors often use the CA125 blood test to detect a protein antigen found at abnormally high levels in the blood serum of women who have ovarian cancer.
- Exploratory surgery. Doctors may use exploratory surgery to confirm a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. They enter the pelvic and abdominal cavities to determine if cancer is present. They may use an instrument that permits a small incision (laparoscopy) or make a larger abdominal incision (laparotomy).
If cancer is present, doctors identify the type of tumor and check to see if the cancer has spread. They may remove and examine multiple samples of tissue (biopsies) within your abdomen and may remove some lymph nodes, if necessary. The biopsies help doctors determine the stage and extent of the cancer and develop the most appropriate treatment plan for you.
Read more about ultrasound, CT scan and MRI at MayoClinic.com.