Because the disease produces no symptoms at early stages, most cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed at advanced stages of development. In general, if you are at risk of ovarian cancer, or you experience symptoms, your doctor will recommend the following tests:
- Pelvic examination – this exam is performed to analyze your rectovaginal (vagina and rectum) area in search of anomalies such as abnormal growth. In addition, your physician may ask you question about the symptoms you experience and your familial or personal medical history.
- Transvaginal ultrasound – this diagnostic technique allows your physician to visualize, on a monitor screen, the size, condition, and the position of your uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. These images can also be used to distinguish between cysts and solid tumors of the ovary.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – an MRI with injection of contrast allows your health care provider to view the organs of the inside of your body. In the case of an ovarian cancer diagnosis, it can analyze the ovaries structure, look for defects, inflammation, abscesses, and detect presence of a tumor. In addition, MRI allows your oncologist to determine the exact size and extent of the tumor.
- CA 125 blood test (CA125) – the CA125 test is used to detect changes in the DNA of blood, and detect ovarian cancer before symptoms occur. Scientists have begun using this test to detect genetic imbalances in the DNA characteristics of ovarian cancer. However, the level of this protein is found increased in about 50% of cases of ovarian cancer in early stage and it may also be present in non-cancerous diseases, especially among pre-menopause women. In case that CA125 indicates the presence of cancer, samples of the suspected cancerous tissue/cells will be collected for laboratory analysis (biopsy).
Ovarian cancer Biopsy: to obtain tissue sample from the tumor, your doctor can perform laparoscopy or laparotomy.
- Laparotomy – this is a major surgical procedure that involves opening of the abdomen through the loin or flank. A laparotomy usually consists in a horizontal or vertical opening approximately 10 cm in the pelvis. Once having access into the abdominal cavity, the surgeon will take small sample from the suspected tumor for etiological objective. The biopsy will confirm accurately presence of cancer cells.
- Laparoscopy – in some cases, your doctor may perform a less invasive method called laparoscopy. Under anesthesia, your physician will make about three small incisions in your belly button and in various places in your abdomen. After which, he will introduce into your belly button a small camera called endoscope that allows him to observe and examine your abdominal cavity. During this procedure, your surgeon can take samples of tissue to be subsequently analyzed under a microscope, thereby confirming the diagnosis.