Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer

Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer

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Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer may cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pressure or pain in the abdomen, pelvis, back or legs
  • A swollen or bloated abdomen
  • Nausea, indigestion, gas, constipation or diarrhea
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Pain during sex
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Menstrual changes

Keep in mind that these symptoms can also indicate conditions other than ovarian cancer. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible so that the cause can be diagnosed and treated promptly.

Diagnostic Tests for Ovarian Cancer

If you are experiencing some symptoms of ovarian cancer, your doctor will first ask you some questions and do a physical exam to look for signs such as an enlarged ovary or signs of fluid in the abdomen (called ascites).

If your doctor suspects ovarian cancer, he or she may recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood Tests: Your doctor may want to check the level of several substances in your blood, including a cancer antigen called CA-125.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound device aims sound waves at organs inside the pelvis and a computer creates a picture from the echoes. For a better view of the ovaries, the device may be inserted into the vagina (transvaginal ultrasound).
  • CT Scan: A computed tomography (CT) scan is an imaging method that uses X-rays to create cross-sectional pictures inside the body. CT scans may not show smaller ovarian tumors, but they can detect whether a larger tumor is growing into nearby structures or whether lymph nodes are enlarged.
  • Biopsy: Based on the results of other tests, your doctor may want to remove tissue and fluid from the pelvis and abdomen so that a pathologist can examine it for the presence of cancer.