How to test for ovarian cancer
An ultrasound of the pelvis is usually the first test that is ordered to see if there is any problem with the ovaries or other pelvic organs. It can detect ovarian masses and help the doctor know if they are fluid-filled ovarian cysts or ovarian tumors. If the doctor suspects ovarian cancer, they may order additional tests.
Computed tomography (CT) scans
A procedure known as needle biopsy makes use of the CT scan. Also known as CT-guided needle biopsy, the procedure involves inserting a needle into the ovaries to remove small pieces of the ovarian tumor. It uses a CT scan to guide the needle into the tumor and take the required sample.
Like CT scans, MRI also provides detailed images of the organs, such as ovaries. However, instead of X-rays, it uses strong magnets to make the images.
MRI scan is most often used to know if ovarian cancer has spread to the brain or spinal cord.
A chest X-ray helps to check if ovarian cancer has spread to the lungs. The lung may not only show a mass (tumor) but there may also be a collection of fluid around the lungs. This collection of fluid is known as pleural effusion.
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
A PET scan can also be useful if the doctor suspects that cancer has spread and wants to know where it has exactly spread. The test is not detailed as a CT or MRI scan but provides details of all the areas where cancer has spread. It can be done simultaneously with a CT scan.
If the doctor suspects that ovarian cancer has spread to the colon (large bowel), they may perform a colonoscopy. This involves inserting a thin, long flexible tube-like camera (colonoscope) through the anus. This camera helps in visualizing the colon to find any abnormal growth (tumor).
This is a surgical procedure in which a thin, long flexible tube-like camera is inserted into the lower abdomen through a small incision. Through this camera, doctors can know the extent of cancer. The camera captures the images in the form of a video and displays the moving images of the ovaries and other organs on a screen.
This provides a definitive diagnosis of ovarian cancer. It involves removing a small piece of tissue from the ovary and examining it in the lab.
The doctor will order blood tests that include
There is a special test known as the cancer antigens-125 (CA-125) test that measures the levels of CA-125 level in the blood. A higher CA-125 level is usually suggestive of ovarian cancer. Other tests may be ordered to know the levels of tumor markers that include
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)
- Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)
- Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)
Hormonal levels may also be assessed. These include testing estrogen and testosterone.
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Green AE. Ovarian Cancer. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/255771-overview
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