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How It's Diagnosed 

If you have the symptoms of ovarian cancer for more than a few weeks, visit your primary care physician or gynecologist. You can also see a doctor that specializes in gynecological cancers called a gynecological oncologist.  A pap smear does not detect ovarian cancer and there are currently no screening or blood test that can definitively detect ovarian cancer.

If your doctor suspects ovarian cancer, he or she may utilize the following diagnostic tools:

CA-125 Test


CA-125 is a protein in the blood that is sometimes elevated in women with ovarian cancer.  By itself,  the  blood test is not a completely accurate diagnostic tool because many other conditions can cause an elevated CA-125.  Furthermore, not every woman with ovarian cancer has an elevated CA-125. 

Phyical Exam




Surgery is the most accurate way to diagnose ovarian cancer.  During surgery, you may have a frozen section taken.  This sample is sent to pathology, and will give the doctor a rapid analysis during surgery of what cells may be present.  From there, many women have their ovaries, uterus, and omentum removed to check for further spread of cancer and/or prevent future recurrences.

Genetics and Family History


Doctors may look into your family history to see if you have a genetic predisposition for ovarian cancer.  Genetic testing looks to see if you have mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.  

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Some physical exams your doctor may perform include a pelvic and rectovaginal exam.  During these exams, doctors check the uterus, cervix, ovaries, and other female anatomy for any abnormalities.

Sonography and Imaging


Ovarian cancer is often difficult to ascertain through just a physical exam.  Due to this, it's very common if you are experiencing symptoms you may undergo additional scans or testing.  The test may include a transvaginal ultrasound, MRI, CT, or PET scan.  These scans can help doctors determine if there is ovarian cancer and if it has spread to other organs.

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