A pelvic examination can reveal an enlarged ovary and signs of ascites, or fluid in the abdomen, both of which are symptoms of ovarian cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. If a doctor suspects ovarian cancer after a pelvic exam, other tests are ordered.
When ovarian cancer is suspected, a physician may make a referral to a specialist, such as a gynecologic oncologist, notes the ACS. The referring doctor or the specialist typically uses other diagnostic tools to determine if ovarian cancer is present, including imaging studies such as MRI scans, CT scans and ultrasound scans. In some cases, barium enema x-rays may also be ordered to check if the cancer has spread to the colorectal area of the body.
A laparascopy may be done to provide a better look at the pelvic organs, tissue and ovaries, advises the ACS. Doctors may also order a colonoscopy to examine the colon or large intestine. Blood tests, including a CA-125 test, may be necessary; the CA-125 test is a cancer-marker test that is used to more definitively diagnose ovarian cancer.
The only definitive way to diagnose ovarian cancer is via microscopic examination of a tissue sample obtained during a biopsy, according to the ACS. During the biopsy, the entire tumor is generally removed, although a small tissue sample may be collected instead in some cases.