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How do you test for ovarian cancer?

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Quick Answer

The most common screening tests for ovarian cancer include the transvaginal ultrasound, or TVUS, and a blood test known as CA-125. Imaging studies and biopsies are also beneficial in an accurate diagnosis, according the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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Full Answer

A TVUS involves the insertion of an ultrasound wand into the vaginal cavity. The test makes use of sound waves to get an accurate picture of the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus and can be useful in finding tumors in the ovaries. Still, a TVUS cannot determine if a tumor is actually cancerous. Most tumors found using TVUS are not benign, according to the ASCO.

CA-125 assay blood tests look for the CA-125 protein in the blood. This protein type is elevated when ovarian cancer is present and is a tumor marker. Other tests, such as OVA-1 and HE4, work in much the same way and are sometimes used in evaluating ovarian cancer, states the ASCO.

Imaging studies can help to map the interior structures of the body and highlight any abnormalities or masses. Studies used in diagnosing ovarian cancer include computed tomography, or CT, scans, positron emission tomography, or PET, scans, and lower gastrointestinal series using a barium enema. Even when abnormalities are noted, a definitive diagnosis of ovarian cancer requires a biopsy of tissue from the tumor itself, according to the ASCO.

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