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Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis

Woman entering cyclotron for scan and diagnosis

If you are at a high risk for ovarian cancer, or showing signs of ovarian cancer, we may recommend the following tests to help determine if you have ovarian cancer:

  • Transvaginal sonography. An ultrasound performed with a small instrument that is placed in the vagina.
  • CA-125 blood test. A blood test to determine if the level of a tumor marker called CA-125 has increased in your blood.

If your screening test result is abnormal, we may recommend radiologic imaging. Imaging tests for ovarian cancer can show if there is a mass in your pelvis, but they cannot tell if the mass is cancerous. Imaging tests for ovarian cancer include:

  • Ultrasound. A procedure that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of organs and systems within your body. A small probe is inserted into the vagina or placed on the skin over the belly to help find tumors and determine if the mass is a solid or a fluid-filled cyst.
  • Abdominal/Pelvic CT (computed tomography) scans. CT scans use X-rays to create cross-sectional pictures of your abdominal area. They are useful in showing the size of the tumor, if lymph nodes are swollen, and if the tumor has spread to other organs. CT scans are also used to guide a needle into a tumor in order to remove a sample of tissue. This is called a needle biopsy.
  • Chest X-ray. X-rays may be taken to see if cancer has spread to your lungs.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). An MRI uses radio waves and strong magnets to create cross-sectional pictures of your body.
  • PET (positron emission tomography). PET scans use a form of radioactive sugar (glucose) to look for cancer cells. This test is sometimes useful in finding ovarian cancer that has spread.

If an ovarian mass is suspicious and tumor markers are elevated, we often proceed to surgery. This is the only way to be certain if an ovarian mass is cancerous. Penn Medicine is the regional leader in minimally invasive ovarian cancer surgery.