Screening for ovarian cancer begins with a medical history, physical examination and pelvic exam of the vagina, rectum and lower abdomen. Your doctor may also take a Pap smear as part of the pelvic exam. In addition, other tests for ovarian cancer may include:
- Ultrasound: This imaging technique uses sound waves to produce an image of abdominal organs such as the uterus, liver and kidneys.
- Computed tomography (CT or CAT scan): This is a noninvasive procedure that takes images of internal organs to look for abnormalities that may not show up on an ordinary X-ray. This scan may indicate enlarged lymph nodes, a potential warning sign of cancer or infection.
- Lower gastrointestinal (GI) series: X-rays are taken of the colon and rectum using barium, a contrast dye.
- Intravenous pyelogram (IVP): X-rays are taken of the kidneys and ureters after a dye is injected.
- CA-125 blood test: A protein in the blood called CA-125 is a tumor marker that is elevated in the blood of women with ovarian cancer. This test is usually used to monitor the progress of treatment rather than to screen for cancer, since problems not related to cancer can cause CA-125 to be elevated.
- Biopsy: Tissue samples are removed and examined under a microscope to see if cancerous or otherwise abnormal cells are present. The diagnosis of cancer is confirmed only by a biopsy.