Diagnosis of ovarian cancer requires the involvement of oncologist – preferably a gynaeconcologist or surgical oncologist. While examining the patient the doctor asks about the symptoms including when they began; how they responded to basic treatment and how long the patient has had them. The doctor goes through the medical history of the patient, their family history and then performs a pelvic examination to see whether the ovaries are enlarged, inflamed or whether there is fluid in the abdomen.
If the doctor finds any abnormalities during the pelvic examination, then he or she will order additional tests. Based on the patient’s medical history and symptoms, the doctor refers the patient to a gynaecologic oncologist or surgical oncologist if he or she suspects ovarian cancer.
Oncologists recommend the following tests to detect ovarian cancer:
Transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) helps in obtaining the images of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries and thus helps in detecting potential abnormal growths – solid growths, masses or cysts. Upon finding a solid growth, the doctor orders a biopsy to determine whether the growth is benign or cancerous.
CA-125 blood test – CA-125 protein is a tumour marker – by which the amount of this protein in the blood is measured. Elevated levels of CA-125 are associated with ovarian cancer. The levels of CA-125 protein are also high in some relatively less severe conditions like endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). However, around 80 per cent of women with advanced ovarian cancer have high levels of CA-125 in their blood – and up to 50% women have elevated levels of CA-125 in their blood during the early stages of ovarian cancer.
Computed tomography (CT) scans also helps in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. CT scans help in detecting the spread of tumours to nearby tissues and organs and also find enlarged lymph nodes – which indicate the spread of cancer to other organs like liver, kidneys or bladder.
Biopsy: The tumour or a part of the tumour is removed and then send to the laboratory to detect the presence of cancer cells. This is the usual way to diagnose ovarian cancer.