Ovarian Cancer Detection and Diagnosis

Many ovarian cancer symptoms are vague or hard to detect and may be attributed to a less serious condition. Symptoms include:

  • Back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal bloating or a feeling of fullness
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Nausea, constipation or diarrhea
  • Urinary urgency
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain

Early Detection

Consider seeing your doctor if you have any of the symptoms above or in combination together. A basic examination may include:

  • Pelvic exam: the physician feels the ovaries and other organs for abnormal size or shape.
  • Transvaginal ultrasound: aspecially designed ultrasound probe is inserted into your vagina to detect a tumor in the ovary. However, further diagnosis is necessary to determine if the tumor is cancerous.


Diagnostic equipment and surgical procedures may help detect and diagnose ovarian cancer:

  • Ultrasound: uses sound waves to view internal body structures and to examine blood flow in different areas of the body. It can be used to view the uterus and ovaries.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): used to view biochemical changes in the body to detect cancerous tumors. It may also be used to determine if a tumor is benign or malignant.
  • Computed Tomography Scan (CT): combines multiple X-rays to provide three-dimensional clarity and show various types of tissue, including blood vessels. CT not only confirms the presence of a tumor, but can show its precise location, size and involvement with adjacent tissue.
  • CA-125 test: this blood test looks for elevated levels of a substance that could indicate the presence of cancer.
  • Laparoscopy: through a few tiny incisions, a magnifying scope and tiny instruments can be inserted into your body to view suspicious growths or obtain a biopsy, a small sample of tissue, for examination.
  • Biopsy: to obtain a small tissue sample for microscopic examination, a biopsy may be performed through minimally invasive laparoscopy, open-incision surgery or percutaneously (through your skin with a special needle).