If you have a symptom that suggests ovarian cancer, your provider will conduct a physical exam and a variety of tests. You will also be asked about your personal and family medical history.
During the exam, you will be checked for general signs of health. Your provider may press on your abdomen to check for tumors or an abnormal buildup of fluid. If fluid is found, a sample may be taken to look for ovarian cancer cells.
Your provider will also perform a pelvic exam, feeling the ovaries and nearby organs for lumps or other changes in their size and shape. Although a Pap test is part of a normal pelvic exam, it is not used to test for ovarian cancer.
Blood tests may be taken to check for any irregularities, including the presence of something called CA-125. CA-125 is a substance that can be found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells. The level of CA-125 can be high in women with ovarian cancer but can also be high in many other, non-cancerous conditions. For that reason, this test is not generally used as a screening test for ovarian cancer.
Besides taking a history and performing a physical exam, there are other tests your provider may order to help diagnose ovarian cancer. Your provider may conduct an ultrasound to determine if an ovarian tumor is present. Ovarian cancers have certain features on ultrasound that distinguish it from benign, non-cancerous ovarian masses. Other tests may include a CT scan, a chest X-ray, a barium enema, or a colonoscopy.
Your providers will recommend the best single test, or combination of tests in order to accurately diagnose your condition. Remember, the earlier ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances are for survival.