Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis
Ultrasound refers to the use of high-frequency sound waves. These waves, which cannot be heard by humans, are aimed at the ovaries. The pattern of the echoes they produce creates a picture called a sonogram. Healthy tissues, fluid-filled cysts, and tumors look different from normal, healthy tissue on this picture.
Lower GI Series
A lower GI series, also known as a barium enema, is a series of x-rays of the colon and rectum. The pictures are taken after the patient is given an enema with a white, chalky solution containing barium. The barium outlines the colon and rectum on the x-ray, making tumors or other abnormal areas easier to see.
A CT scan is a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine.
Laparotomy With Biopsy
A biopsy is the removal of tissue for examination under a microscope. A pathologist studies the tissue to make a diagnosis. To obtain the tissue, the surgeon performs a laparotomy (an operation to open the abdomen). If cancer is suspected, the surgeon performs an oophorectomy (removal of the entire ovary).
This is important because, if cancer is present, removing just a sample of tissue by cutting through the outer layer of the ovary could allow cancer cells to escape and cause the disease to spread throughout the body.
After the Diagnosis: The Next StepsIf an ovarian cancer diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor will want to learn the stage (or extent) of disease. Staging is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body. Staging may involve surgery, x-rays or other imaging procedures, and lab tests. Knowing the stage of ovarian cancer helps the doctor plan appropriate treatment.
(Click Ovarian Cancer Stages for more information on the stages of ovarian cancer.)