Ovarian cancer usually produces no symptoms until it is in an advanced stage. Very few women have it detected early on a routine pelvic exam or because it produced a symptom. Ovarian cancer may be detected incidentally during a routine physical exam or test.
You will be asked about your medical and family history. A pelvic exam will be done. A pelvic exam is a thorough, manual evaluation of the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. A Pap smear will also be done. This test removes a sample of cervical tissue for examination under a microscope. This may be done whether or not you are having symptoms.
If abnormalities are found during a physical and/or pelvic exam, the following tests may be done to identify the changes. Not all ovarian abnormalities are cancer. Tests to help distinguish noncancerous and potential cancerous changes include:
If cancer is found, the prognosis and treatment depend on the location, size, and stage of the cancer, as well as your general health. Staging is a careful attempt to determine whether the cancer has spread and, if it has, what body parts are affected.
Additional tests to determine staging may include:
The following stages are used to classify cancer of the ovary:
Beyond staging, a pathologist looks at the tumor through a microscope. The appearance of the cancer cells gives a good idea of how aggressive the cancer is. Grading the cancer adds to the staging information to help determine how best to treat you.
Ovarian cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003130-pdf.pdf. Accessed January 3, 2014.
Ovarian cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900705/Ovarian-cancer. Updated May 6, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/ovarian/patient/ovarian-epithelial-treatment-pdq#section/_156. Accessed January 3, 2014.
9/18/2009 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900705/Ovarian-cancer: FDA clears a test for ovarian cancer. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm182057.htm. Updated April 17, 2013. Accessed January 6, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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