How to Detect Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer occurs when cells lining the ovaries, fallopian tubes or the peritoneum near the ovaries grow out of control.

Only 20% of ovarian cancer cases are detected at an early stage, and in these cases the survival rate is high, with approximately 94% of patients living more than 5 years. However, the mortality of ovarian cancer is quite high because most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage.

For this reason, it is very important to perform routine examinations and tests in order to detect ovarian cancer early, especially in case of symptoms or a high risk of suffering from this pathology.

At present, there is no totally reliable screening test for ovarian cancer. However, there are screening tests that can help make a diagnosis.

Routine pelvic examination

In a pelvic examination it is difficult to detect ovarian cancer early, but it is important because it can help diagnose other conditions or symptoms of this pathology.

It is essential to undergo regular pelvic examinations to detect this and other pathologies.

CA-125 blood test

This test measures the CA-125 protein to check its levels. As a screening test for ovarian cancer it is quite inaccurate, because there are other factors that can alter the amount of this protein in a woman. Still, it can be useful in helping to focus a first diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

This test can also be used during treatment in women already diagnosed with ovarian cancer, to ensure that the body is responding well to the established treatment.

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Biopsy

A biopsy is a test that consists of removing a piece of the tumor for examination. In ovarian cancer, this test is usually performed during the same surgery in which the tumor is removed.

Laparoscopy

In this test, a small tube is inserted through a small incision in the lower abdomen, which sends images of the pelvis or abdomen to a monitor. The goal of laparoscopy is to determine the stage of the cancer. In addition, it can be used to perform a biopsy.

Imaging

These are used to obtain images of the inside of your body. There are different types:

  • TVUS (transvaginal ultrasound): This is a test that uses sound waves to examine the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries by placing an ultrasound probe or transducer into the vagina. This test is very useful for detecting ovarian tumors, but it is not possible to detect a cancerous or benign tumor.
  • CT scan: This is an x-ray study that generates detailed cross-sectional images of your body. This study can help determine if ovarian cancer has spread to other organs.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging: This creates cross-sectional images of the inside of the woman’s body, but this test uses powerful magnets to produce the images, not radiation.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET-CT): Radioactive glucose is administered to check for cancer. In this case, although the image is not as detailed, it provides useful information to determine whether the abnormal areas seen in these other studies are cancer or not.

These are tests that are performed to detect ovarian cancer, or once already diagnosed to examine and plan future treatment.