Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer

Explore advanced ovarian cancer treatment options available in China.

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Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the ovaries, the female reproductive organs responsible for producing eggs and hormones. It is the fifth most common cause of cancer-related deaths among women. Early-stage ovarian cancer often presents with subtle or nonspecific symptoms, leading to challenges in early detection. However, timely diagnosis is crucial as ovarian cancer can progress rapidly and become more difficult to treat in advanced stages. Early detection allows for prompt initiation of treatment, which can improve outcomes and increase the likelihood of successful treatment. Moreover, identifying ovarian cancer at an early stage enables more conservative surgical approaches and may help preserve fertility in younger patients. Regular pelvic exams, awareness of potential symptoms, and appropriate screening tests are essential for early detection and improved prognosis in ovarian cancer.

Tests and procedures used to diagnose ovarian cancer include:

  • Pelvic exam. During a pelvic exam, your doctor inserts gloved fingers into your vagina and simultaneously presses a hand on your abdomen in order to feel (palpate) your pelvic organs. The doctor also visually examines your external genitalia, vagina and cervix.
  • Imaging tests. Tests, such as ultrasound or CT scans of your abdomen and pelvis, may help determine the size, shape and structure of your ovaries.
  • Blood tests. Blood tests might include organ function tests that can help determine your overall health.

    Your doctor might also test your blood for tumor markers that indicate ovarian cancer. For example, a cancer antigen (CA) 125 test can detect a protein that’s often found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells. These tests can’t tell your doctor whether you have cancer, but they may provide clues about your diagnosis and prognosis.

  • Surgery. Sometimes your doctor can’t be certain of your diagnosis until you undergo surgery to remove an ovary and have it tested for signs of cancer.
  • Genetic testing. Your doctor may recommend testing a sample of your blood to look for gene changes that increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Knowing you have an inherited change in your DNA helps your doctor make decisions about your treatment plan. You may wish to share the information with your blood relatives, such as your siblings and your children, since they also may have a risk of having those same gene changes.

Once it’s confirmed that you have ovarian cancer, your doctor will use information from your tests and procedures to assign your cancer a stage. The stages of ovarian cancer range from 1 to 4, which are often indicated with Roman numerals I to IV. The lowest stage indicates that the cancer is confined to the ovaries. By stage 4, the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body.

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