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Ovarian Cancer


The methods used for the diagnosis of ovarian cancer are:

  • Medical history and pelvic examination: The oncologists perform a comprehensive preliminary examination to determine the possible causes for the symptoms experienced by the individuals. The individuals are also asked about their medical history and family history to learn about the factors that increase the risk of ovarian cancer. The person also undergoes a pelvic examination to check for swelling, fluid accumulation, or enlargement of the ovaries.
  • Blood tests: Ovarian cancer blood tests are present to detect certain biomarkers. One of these tests is the cancer antigen (CA) 125 test, which detects a protein present on the surface of the ovarian cancer cells. The test is used to monitor cancer treatment, screen ovarian cancer in high-risk patients, and check for recurrence of ovarian cancer. However, it is not a confirmatory diagnostic test as elevated levels of CA 125 in the blood may be due to several other conditions, such as liver disease, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. Further, not all patients with ovarian cancer have elevated levels of CA 125 in the blood.
  • Ultrasound: It is usually the initial imaging test performed when the patient complains of ovarian or abdominal disorders. It helps in detecting the tumor in the ovary and determines if it is a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass. Ultrasound also provides information about the size of the ovary.
  • Computed tomography scan: Computed tomography scan helps detect large ovarian tumors and provides details about the spread of the tumor to nearby structures, such as lymph nodes, bladder, or kidney. As the technique obtains clear and detailed cross-sectional images of various body parts, it tells about the spread of ovarian cancer to distant organs, such as the liver or lungs. Computed tomography scan also assists during needle biopsy in case of suspected ovarian cancer metastasis.
  • Chest x-ray: The individuals may also be recommended to undergo a chest x-ray to detect if ovarian cancer has spread to the lungs. It is especially done in ovarian cancer patients who present respiratory symptoms. Patients with ovarian cancer metastasis to the lungs may have one or more tumors and an accumulation of fluid around the lungs.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging: It is usually not used for detecting ovarian cancer. However, the oncologists may recommend magnetic resonance to determine if ovarian cancer has spread to the spinal cord or brain.
  • Positron emission tomography scan: If abnormal areas are detected with the other diagnostic tests, PET scan helps to find if these areas are due to cancerous tissues. If ovarian cancer is diagnosed in a patient, a PET scan detects if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other body parts.
  • Surgery: In some cases, the oncologist is unsure about the diagnosis despite performing all the tests. In such cases, the ovary of the woman is removed and examined for signs of cancer.
  • Biopsy: Biopsy is the procedure done to confirm the diagnosis of cancer. The biopsy for diagnosis of ovarian cancer most commonly involves surgery to remove the tumor and send it to the laboratory for further analysis. In rare cases, the person may undergo laparoscopic surgery or fine needle aspiration to obtain the sample. If there is an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, the cancer specialists may take the fluid sample and send it to the laboratory to determine the presence of cancer cells.

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