Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer

The fear of ovarian cancer is well founded: the majority of affected women die. Fortunately, more and more women undergo regular physical exams and are more in tune with their bodies than ever. This has led to earlier detections of this deadly disease and the earlier ovarian cancer is caught, the greater the likelihood of survival and reversal.

The symptoms of the disease have been discussed in detail, and women who suddenly notice that they have an elevated need to visit the rest room or find that they are not able to eat as much as they previously able to ingest during a meal, are encouraged to undergo diagnostic exams. The same is said for those women who suddenly feel an abdominal tenderness or pain. 

Yet do you know how diagnosing ovarian cancer is achieved?

A pelvic exam, which is done during the annual visit with the gynecologist, most often includes a probing of the uterus and the ovaries to check for any enlargement. If a change in size is detected either from one ovary to the next, or since the last exam, the odds are good that the physician will request a complete work up in the framework of a physical exam.

During a physical exam, a complete blood work up is also ordered and in cases of suspected cancerous growth, a test entitled CA-125 is ordered. It is imperative to understand that the test as a standalone will not offer a valid diagnosis of ovarian cancer. It simply measures the presence of CA-125 levels in the blood, which are an indicator of potentially cancerous cells in the body yet without truly providing the location from which these cells are shed.


Another diagnostic tool employed at the gynecologist's office may be the use of a transvaginal ultrasound. This tool is used in early pregnancy detection, especially when a previous pregnancy resulted in miscarriage, and permits for a wand to be vaginally inserted. This test provides stunning images of the ovaries and surrounding tissues and is of the utmost importance when seeking to diagnose ovarian cancer. This method also permits for a correct measurement of the tumor or tumors, the number of tumors, and their exact locations.

A biopsy is another method of checking for cancerous cells and it involves the removal of actual tissues from the ovaries. It is not surprising that this is not that frequently used to diagnose the cancer since any tumors on the ovaries - even if they are still benign - are subject to removal due to their high transmogrification rate into malignant tumors. It is, however, a most valuable tool in ascertaining the staging of the cancer and the potential for metastasizing.

Although diagnosing ovarian cancer requires a number of different steps to arrive at a conclusive result, it is not surprising that due to the high mortality rate associated with this cancer the need for treatment is immediate and decisive and for this reason many a physician will set a surgery date as she or he awaits the results of the tests to come in.