Symptomless ovarian cancer is most often detected during a woman’s regular gynecological examination. Your physician will palpitate your ovaries during your pelvic and rectal exam for the presence of ovarian cysts or fibroid tumors. If any abnormalities are noted, he will follow up with further testing which may include an ultrasound and chest X-ray. If further testing is required, a laparoscopy may be performed.
New methods for early screening of ovarian cancer are being investigated including ultrasound in conjunction with a blood test. The blood test may detect a cancer protein called CA 125, which is sometimes detected in the blood of women with ovarian cancer.
These tests are useful in evaluating tumor growth, however neither of them has been proven as a reliable way to screen for ovarian cancer. Ultrasound can detect changes, but it does not give enough information alone to diagnose ovarian cancer. The CA 125 blood test can return positive results when no cancer is present due to other conditions a woman may experience including fibroid tumors, endometriosis, pelvic infection, pregnancy, or other non-gynecological problems.
Although these methods of screening for ovarian cancer look promising, further study is needed before either of these tests are routinely used to screen for ovarian cancer.