A person with ovarian cancer may have high levels of a substance called the CA-125 (cancer or carcinoma antigen-125) in the blood. CA-125 antigen is known by several other names, such as ovarian cancer antigen and CA-125 tumor marker. It is a protein present on the surface of most (but not all) ovarian cells. Thus, significantly high levels of CA-125 may be seen in the blood of ovarian cancer patients. Since all ovarian cancer types do not possess this protein, not all women with ovarian cancer will have high blood levels of CA-125.
CA-125 may be elevated in several noncancerous conditions, such as
- Liver diseases
- Menstrual periods
- Uterine fibroids
- Pelvic inflammatory diseases or PID
Hence, elevated CA-125 levels do not definitely mean that the person has ovarian cancer. The CA-125 blood test is not recommended for screening women with low to moderate ovarian cancer risk. The test, nonetheless, does have several important uses, such as
- Monitoring the response to treatment for ovarian cancer. Declining CA-125 levels generally mean that the tumor is responding to treatment.
- Finding out whether the tumor has returned after successful treatment.
- Screening women with a high risk for ovarian cancer, such as those who have
- Certain abnormal genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2
- The gene associated with Lynch syndrome or Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
- A history of cancer of the breast, colon or uterus
- A family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer or colorectal cancer (this means any of the first-degree relatives, such as mother, sister, grandmother or daughter have had any of these cancers)
What happens during a CA-125 blood test for ovarian cancer?
The CA-125 blood test is a simple test during which a health care professional collects a blood sample from a vein in the arm by using a small needle. The collection hardly takes five minutes, and no special preparation for the test is needed. There may be slight stinging when the needle goes in and out of the skin. There could also be a little pain or bruising at the needle site, but it goes away on its own without generally causing any significant discomfort. The test results will be assessed by the doctor, who may take a gynecologist’s help if needed.
What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?
Ovarian cancer may or may not present with any significant symptoms. Ovarian cancer is rarely diagnosed in its early stages due to the lack of any typical signs and symptoms. When present, the symptoms may include
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Reduced appetite
- Swollen or distended abdomen
- Heaviness or pain in the pelvic area
- A change in bowel habits, typically constipation
- A frequent urge to urinate
The presence of these symptoms does not necessarily mean ovarian cancer. Nonetheless, consult a doctor at the earliest so that a timely diagnosis may be made.
How do doctors diagnose ovarian cancer?
Doctors may diagnose ovarian cancer by
- Taking detailed medical history, including the symptoms, any underlying health conditions and any significant personal or family history of ovarian, breast or colorectal cancer.
- Performing thorough physical examination particularly pelvic exam to look for a bulky ovary or signs of fluid in the abdomen (called ascites).
- Ordering imaging tests, such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans and barium enema X-ray (to see whether cancer has spread to the large bowel). A chest X-ray may also be done to check whether cancer has spread to the lungs.
- Getting a biopsy done. A small tissue sample from the tumor is collected and examined under a microscope. The biopsy sample may also help in staging and grading cancer and determine the presence of special proteins (such as hormone receptors) that help in planning a proper treatment regimen.
- Performing a laparoscopy to examine the pelvic organs including the ovaries by using a thin, flexible tube with a light source and camera (laparoscope) inserted into the abdomen via a small cut (incision).
- Ordering certain blood tests, such as blood counts, bleeding and clotting time and tests, to check the levels of certain important substances, such as human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), alpha fetoprotein (AFP) and CA-125, which are linked with ovarian cancer.
Latest Cancer News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Medline Plus. CA-125 Blood Test (Ovarian Cancer). https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/ca-125-blood-test-ovarian-cancer/
Top Does Ovarian Cancer Show Up on Blood Work? Related Articles
Can a Blood Test Detect Ovarian Cancer?A doctor may advise a blood test to patients having ovarian cancer. A cancer antigen-125 (CA-125) blood test is usually recommended to measure the levels of a protein called CA-125, which could be elevated in women who have ovarian cancer. This test is also used during the treatment of ovarian cancer because the level of this protein goes down as the tumor shrinks. This protein is elevated in more than 80 percent of women with advanced ovarian cancers and 50 percent of those with early-stage cancers.
Can You See Ovarian Cancer on an Ultrasound?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.
How Long Do You Have to Live With Stage IV Ovarian Cancer?Stage IV cancer means the disease has already spread to distant organs. In most patients diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer, the 5-year survival rate is approximately 17%.
How Would I Know if I Have Ovarian Cancer?Ovarian cancer is cancer of the ovaries that produce eggs. Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, abdominal pain, reduced appetite, bloating, pelvic pain, constipation and an increased urge to urinate.
Is Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer Curable?Ovarian cancer is a disease where abnormal cells in the ovary begin to grow and divide uncontrollably, forming a mass of undifferentiated tumor cells. These cells tend to invade nearby and distant sites in the body, deteriorating their function. The ovaries are pair of internal reproductive glands found only in females.
Is Stage III Ovarian Cancer Curable?Ovarian cancer is a disease where abnormal cells in the ovary begin to grow and divide uncontrollably, forming a mass of undifferentiated tumor cells. These cells tend to invade nearby and distant sites in the body, deteriorating their function. The ovaries are pair of internal reproductive glands found only in females.
Is There a Blood Test for Ovarian Cancer?The CA-125 blood test is one of clinical assessments used to diagnose ovarian cancer. However, CA-125 or other tumor markers alone are insufficient to diagnose ovarian cancer.
Ovarian CancerThere are many types of ovarian cancer, epithelial carcinoma is the most common. Women with a family history of ovarian cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease. Some ovarian cancer symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and abnormal vaginal bleeding, however, they usually do not present until the disease has progressed. Early diagnosis is important for successful treatment.
Ovarian Cancer SlidesOvarian cancer symptoms and signs include abdominal pain, bloating, frequent urination, and a feeling of fullness. Ovarian cancer treatment depends on the stage and may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted therapy.
Ovarian Cancer QuizHow common is ovarian cancer and who is at risk? Take our Ovarian Cancer Quiz to learn the causes, symptoms, and treatment for this disease.
What Are the Main Causes of Ovarian Cancer?Each cell in the body survives, grows, and dies under regulated conditions. The term cancer means an uncontrolled growth of cells.
What Are the Symptoms of Stage 1 Ovarian Cancer?At stage 1 of ovarian cancer, the cancer is present only in the ovaries i.e. it has not spread in any other organs. Signs and symptoms at this stage may include a mass felt in the abdomen, distension or swelling of abdomen, abnormal vaginal bleeding (between menstrual periods or after menopause) and other signs. Stage 1 ovarian cancer has no symptoms in many women, however; often they may not experience symptoms until the cancer has spread significantly.
What Was Your First Sign of Ovarian Cancer?Like all types of cancer, ovarian cancer is often asymptomatic. The first signs of ovarian cancer may vary from patient to patient. Typically, ovarian cancer symptoms might appear as common stomach and digestive problems that are often mistaken for minor ailments.
Who Is at High Risk for Ovarian Cancer?The risk of ovarian cancer increases with age. Almost half of the ovarian cancer cases are seen in women older than 63 years of age. Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of gynecological cancer-related deaths among women between the ages of 35 and 74 years.