Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to diagnose in early stages, because it frequently doesn’t cause any symptoms and isn’t screened for during a Pap smear. For this reason, it has the highest death rates of cancers of the reproductive organs in women. If you are having any potential symptoms of ovarian cancer—such as heaviness in the abdomen or unexplained back pain—your physician may recommend one or more screening tests. Here are some of the methods he or she may use.
Blood tests can’t typically diagnose ovarian cancer alone, but they can indicate that ovarian cancer may be present, so that your physician can decide if more testing is needed. Depending on your symptoms or the type of tumor that your physician suspects you may have, he or she may order one or more of these types of blood tests:
- CBC – complete blood count, to check your red and white blood cell and platelet levels
- Liver function
- Kidney function
- CA-125 – high levels can indicate gynecological cancer
- HCG/AFP/LDH – tumor markers that can be caused by germ cell ovarian tumors
- Estrogen/testosterone/inhibin – high levels of these hormones can indicate an ovarian stromal tumor
Medical imaging tests allow your physician to see your ovaries and look for signs of abnormal cells or tumor growth. These tests can also help your physician determine the size of any tumor that is present and if the cancer has metastasized. Different imaging tests provide your physician with different information. Some of the tests he or she may order include:
- CT scan
- PET scan
If your physician notes a specific area of concern on your ovaries but isn’t sure if it is cancerous or not, he or she may request a biopsy. During a biopsy, the suspected tumor or a small section of tissue will be removed, usually through a minimally invasive procedure.
When the issue is removed, it will be sent to a pathology lab, where it will be examined. The lab will tell your physician if the cells indicate cancer.
Getting a cancer diagnosis is scary, but the Women and Children’s Services team at Regional Medical Center of San Jose is ready to support you through all stages of the process, from diagnosis to treatment. Contact us today at (888) 762-8881 for a referral to an experienced women’s health physician in San Jose.