Most ovarian cancer tumours are present for some time before they’re diagnosed. -Diagnosing ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer may cause several signs and symptoms. Women are more likely to have symptoms if the disease has spread beyond the ovaries, but even early stage ovarian cancer can cause them. The most common symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms such as urgency (always feeling like you have to go) or frequency (having to go often)

These symptoms are also commonly caused by benign (non-cancerous) diseases and by cancers of other organs. When they are caused by ovarian cancer, they tend to be persistent and represent a change from normal − for example, they occur more often or are more severe. If a woman has these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks, she should see her doctor, preferably a gynecologist.

Diagnosing ovarian cancer :-

Physical examination

The doctor will check for any masses or lumps by feeling your abdomen and doing an internal vaginal examination. If you’re uncomfortable with this, you can ask for a female doctor or have someone else with you for support. If there’s a build-up of fluid in the abdomen, your doctor may give you a local anaesthetic and pass a needle through your skin to take a fluid sample. This is called paracentesis. The fluid is checked under a microscope for cancer cells.

Blood test (CA125)

You may have a blood test to look for a chemical called CA125 in the blood. This chemical is produced by some ovarian cancer cells. A very high level of CA125 in the blood may mean you have ovarian cancer.However, this chemical is not specific to ovarian cancer and may also be raised in many benign conditions, so a raised level of CA125 does not definitely mean you have ovarian cancer.


Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to produce an image of your ovaries. You may have an internal ultrasound (known as a transvaginal ultrasound), where the ultrasound probe is inserted into your vagina, or you may have an external ultrasound, where the probe is put next to your stomach. The image produced can show the size and texture of your ovaries, as well as any cysts that may be present

CT scan

A CT (computerised tomography) scan uses x-ray beams to take pictures of the inside of your body. It’s useful for looking for signs that the cancer has spread, but the CT scan may not detect all ovarian tumours. You’ll be asked not to eat or drink anything for several hours before the scan, except for a liquid dye. The dye makes your organs appear white on the scan, so anything unusual can be seen more clearly. You’ll also have an injection of dye, which will help the organs appear clearly.

PET scan

A PET (positron emission tomography) scan highlights abnormal tissues in the body. PET scans may be more accurate than a CT scan, and the results of a PET scan may help the medical team decide on your treatment. You’ll be injected with a glucose solution containing a small amount of radioactive material. The solution circulates in your body and is taken up by actively dividing cells, such as cancer cells. You’ll then have a full body scan.

MRI scan

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan uses magnetism and radio waves to build up cross-section pictures of your body. This scan is not commonly used for women with ovarian cancer. Before the scan, you may be asked not to eat or drink for a few hours. You may also be given an injection of dye to highlight the organs in your body. The doctor may insert a probe or tampon into your vagina during the scan to get a better view of the ovaries.


Some women have a bowel examination (colonoscopy) to make sure that symptoms aren’t due to a bowel problem. The doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube with a small camera and a light (endoscope) into your bowel. You may have to fast and take laxatives to empty your bowels the day before the test. Your doctor will talk to you about what to expect.

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