How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?


Quick Answer

A variety of methods are used for diagnosing ovarian cancer. Physical exams, imaging studies, biopsies and blood tests are among the many tools doctors can use to make a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

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Full Answer

A gynecologist generally looks for signs of ovarian cancer during a pelvic exam after a reviewing a patient's medical history. Fluid in the abdomen and an enlarged ovary can alert the doctor to the need for further testing. Many gynecologists refer patients to a specialist if testing is suggestive of ovarian cancer, according to the ACS.

Imaging studies are important in ovarian cancer diagnosis and can be used to determine if a mass is present in the pelvic cavity. The most common include ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans, and computed tomography, or CT, scans. Although imaging alone cannot determine if the mass is actually cancerous, studies can be used to see if cancer has spread to other organs and tissues, according to the ACS.

Any mass detected by ultrasound, MRI or CT scans can be biopsied to determine if it is actually cancer. Some biopsies are performed via laparoscope using a needle-guided ultrasound. Treating physicians may also order blood work to look for tumor markers as part of the diagnostic process, according to the ACS.

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