Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer

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Ovarian cancer is diagnosed on the basis of the symptoms explained by the patient, a general and gynaecological physical examination that may reveal the presence of a pelvic mass, or which may indicate complementary imaging techniques, such as ultrasound scan, to study the inside of the abdominal-pelvic cavity. Sometimes the presence of the tumour is detected after a scan is performed for a different reason on a patient with no symptoms.   

Tests for diagnosing Ovarian Cancer

Imaging tests are used to detect the presence of the tumour, to determine whether the tumour is benign or malignant and to find out whether the disease has spread to the other organs and tissues in the pelvis, abdomen and beyond the abdomen. 

Ultrasound on a monitor

Transvaginal ultrasound. This is the first test that is usually carried out and it more precisely determines the characteristics of the tumour as well as providing information about whether it is benign or malignant.  

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI machine

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). These are useful in some cases and are used to study the abdominal cavity and check how far the tumour has spread.  

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI machine

Positron Emission Tomography (PET). This can be useful for cases of advanced disease or recurrence, as it can show images of the disease that are not visible using other techniques or confirm images that are difficult to interpret.  

Blood collection tube

General analysis. This incorporates tumour markers, particularly HE-4 and CA-125. The first is very specific to ovarian cancer, and the second may increase in cases of advanced disease. In mucinous tumours, the CA-19.9 marker may increase.  

Pregnant woman undergoing gynaecological uterine surgery

Biopsy. Sometimes, when the tumour is limited to the ovary, it is difficult to determine whether it is benign or malignant. In these cases it may be necessary to perform a biopsy, usually laparoscopically, to find out if it is benign or not, and remove it if the tumour is confirmed to be malignant. In cases of advanced disease, the biopsy, in addition to confirming the diagnosis, provides information on whether complete surgery can be performed, in other words, all the existing tumour masses can be removed, without leaving any visible remains of the disease.  

DNA molecule or helix

Study of the germline mutational status of the BRCA1/2 gene. For all patients diagnosed with ovarian epithelial cancer, regardless of their family history and age of diagnosis, it is recommended that screening is performed to rule out the disease being part of a hereditary cancer syndrome. This study is done through a blood test.  

Substantiated information by:

Lydia Gaba

Published: 3 July 2020
Updated: 3 July 2020

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.


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