How to detect ovarian cancer: There might be plenty of questions in your mind regarding the early detection of ovarian cancer. Many a woman fear a lot about it because only around 20% of ovarian cancers are detected at an early stage and the majority are found in advanced stages. Though Pelvic examination and Pap smears are routinely done by gynaeconcologist as a part of the cervical cancer screening programs, they are rarely helpful for detecting ovarian cancers at an early stage. Now, the big question is – Do we have any screening tests or exams for the early detection of ovarian cancer?
THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION IS LITTLE BIT OBSCURE
So far, there is no specific screening test for the detection of ovarian cancer. However, in addition to the pelvic examination, transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) and the CA-125 blood tests are commonly used.
Transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) is useful to find any abnormal growth or mass in the ovary, but cannot exactly tell whether the mass is benign or cancerous.
CA-125 Blood Test: Women with ovarian cancer have high CA-125 protein levels. It is a useful tumour marker test to help guide the treatment of ovarian cancer. When the treatment goes well, its levels come down. Elevated levels of CA-125 are also caused by pelvic inflammatory disease and endometriosis. Owing to this reason it cannot be used as an ovarian cancer screening test. However, if a woman not known to have ovarian cancer has increased levels of CA-125, the gynaecologist may repeat the test and may order a transvaginal ultrasound.
The above two tests are not recommended for women who are at average risk. To know your risk of ovarian cancer, go through this article: “VERY IMPORTANT FOR EVERY WOMAN”
What About the Women Who are at an Increased Risk of Ovarian Cancer?
For women who are at increased risk of ovarian cancer owing to BRCA1 gene mutations, a strong family history of ovarian and breast cancer and Lynch syndrome, doctors may recommend CA-125 and TVUS.
Ovarian cancer grows and spreads silently without causing any symptoms. Even if the symptoms manifest, they are very subtle and mimic other symptoms of very common conditions – which majority of the women tend to ignore. Therefore, the best way to detect ovarian cancer early is to approach a gynaecologist or a lady surgical oncologist for a routine health check-up according to your age and magnitude of risk. For very high-risk women with a strong family history, genetic screening tests are available.