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When making a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, tests are often ordered to either confirm the diagnosis or to rule out conditions that have similar symptoms. Recommended tests include blood tests, an upper GI series (x-rays of the abdomen), and a laparotomy. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, tests are done to determine the cancer's stage and to plan appropriate treatment.

Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis: An Overview

In order to make an ovarian cancer diagnosis, the doctor will often begin by asking a number of questions, including questions about a woman's:
  • Current symptoms
  • History of any medical conditions, including other cancers
  • Family history of any medical conditions
  • Current medications.
The doctor will also perform a physical exam, looking for any signs or symptoms of ovarian cancer. Part of the physical exam will include a pelvic exam to feel the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum for any abnormalities in their shape or size. (A Pap test, a good test for cancer of the cervix, is often done along with the pelvic exam, but it is not a reliable way to find or diagnose ovarian cancer.)
The doctor may also recommend certain tests that can help diagnose ovarian cancer or rule out other, more common health problems.

Tests Used to Diagnose Ovarian Cancer

Tests that may be used to help in diagnosing ovarian cancer include:
  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound
  • Lower GI series (barium enema)
  • CT scan
  • Laparotomy with biopsy.
Blood Test
One blood test the doctor may order is a CA-125 assay. This is a blood test used to measure the level of CA-125, a tumor marker that is often found in higher-than-normal amounts in the blood of women with ovarian cancer.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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