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How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?

by on March 28, 2012

We’ve talked about symptoms, causes, and risk factors. Today, we’re moving to a new topic – diagnosis.

Unfortunately, there is no regular screening test for ovarian cancer – your annual Pap test will not detect it (although it does test for cervical cancer). However, if you are at risk for ovarian cancer or exhibit the symptoms, there are diagnostic tools your doctor can use to try to determine if you have the disease.

Your doctor may start with a pelvic exam, as well as a transvaginal or pelvic ultrasound. She may also order a special blood test, known as a CA-125 blood test. CA-125 is a protein – a higher count of it may indicate ovarian cancer, although it is by no means a definitive test. Premenopausal women may have a higher CA-125 level due to other benign conditions or other types of cancer. Additionally, in some cases (especially in early stage cases), a woman may not have an elevated CA-125 level even though she has ovarian cancer.

So, if your doctor suspects you might have ovarian cancer, he or she will probably use the CA-125 blood test in concert with a pelvic exam and ultrasound. The effectiveness of these diagnostic tools is increased when they are used together. Your doctor may also order a CT scan or a PET scan, although the only definitive method of diagnosis is surgery and biopsy.

Ovarian cancer can be tough to diagnose, which makes it even more important to pay attention to possible symptoms and discuss any risk factors with your doctor. For more information about diagnosing ovarian cancer, please visit the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.



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