4 Ways to Test for Ovarian Cancer

1. Get a Doctor to Perform a Pelvic Exam

If you haven’t chosen to have your ovaries removed to prevent ovarian cancer outright, you can have a physical exam performed as a screening method. Your doctor will probably not recommend that you undergo regular screening unless you’re at elevated risk for ovarian cancer, because the methods used to detect it in its early stages aren’t totally reliable. The pelvic examination is the least invasive screening method. Your doctor will check your rectum and vagina in addition to your uterus and pelvic areas to see if any detectable ovarian cancer growths have formed. You should keep in mind that you can develop ovarian cancer even if you’ve had a hysterectomy, since that procedure often leaves ovaries intact.

2. Use the CA-125 Blood Test Method

High levels of a natural substance known as CA-125 can occur in your blood if you have ovarian cancer, and your doctor may order a blood test to check your CA-125 levels. However, this diagnostic technique is not, in and of itself, enough to confirm the presence or absence of ovarian cancer. Many other medical conditions can stimulate CA-125 production, and some women with ovarian cancer don’t show elevated levels at all.

3. Imaging Procedures Used in Cancer Detection

You can also have an ultrasound, computed topography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to determine whether you have ovarian cancer and, if so, how far it’s spread. These techniques are used to create multi-dimensional pictures of your insides and identify the size and location of growths. However, they aren’t fully reliable, particularly because these images aren’t able to distinguish benign growths from malignant ones. You’ll need a follow-up procedure to confirm the presence of ovarian cancer if suspicious cell masses are detected.

4. Laparotomies and Laparoscopies

Two surgical techniques are also commonly used in ovarian cancer screening and detection. The first is a laparotomy, performed by a cancer specialist who will make an abdominal incision and explore your ovaries to see if there is any evidence of cancerous growth. A laparoscopy is not quite as invasive a procedure. This alternative to the laparotomy features smaller incisions. A specialized instrument is inserted into your body to inspect targeted tissue masses. During a laparoscopy, your doctor may also remove some bodily tissues so a biopsy can be performed to determine if a growth is cancerous. Pending those results, a more in-depth procedure can be ordered if your supervising physician thinks it necessary.

About this Author

Jay Tonin has been active in the Canadian Cancer Society for over 10 years, assisting with fundraising and awareness campaigns. As a freelance writer for eHow.com, he has published a variety of health and wellness related articles on such topics as infection prevention, holistic wellness and abnormal psychology.