How is ovarian cancer detected?

Ovarian cancer, a potentially life-threatening disease, affects thousands of women worldwide each year. 

Often referred to as the ‘silent killer‘, it often manifests non-specific symptoms in the early stages. Detecting ovarian cancer can be challenging. However, as medical science advances, so does our understanding of ovarian cancer detection and diagnosis.

In this blog, we will delve into the crucial topic of how ovarian cancer is detected. 

How is ovarian cancer detected? 

Early detection of ovarian cancer is essential for better treatment outcomes. Ovarian cancer can be detected through various methods, including

Pelvic examination

During a pelvic examination, the doctor inspects the cervix for any irregularities or signs of cervical cancer.

While a pelvic exam is essential to routine gynecological care, it is not considered a definitive test for detecting ovarian cancer.

Imaging tests 

Different imaging techniques can be used to visualize the ovaries and detect any tumors. Transvaginal ultrasound or CT scans are commonly used to determine your ovaries’ size, shape, and structure.

MRI can provide highly detailed images of the ovaries and surrounding tissues. It is especially useful in assessing the extent of tumors and determining their relationship to nearby organs and blood vessels.

Blood tests

Additionally, your doctor might test your blood for tumor markers that indicate ovarian cancer. 

The most commonly used biomarker is CA-125 (cancer antigen 125). These tests can’t tell your doctor whether you have cancer but may provide clues about your diagnosis and prognosis.


During a biopsy, a small tissue or cell sample is taken from the suspicious area and later examined under a microscope to determine if cancer cells are present. Biopsies can be done through surgery or, in some cases, using less invasive techniques.

Genetic testing

Genetic testing is a diagnostic tool used to identify genetic alterations in a person’s DNA that increase the risk of ovarian cancer. 

It can provide valuable information about an individual’s genetic makeup and help identify their risk of developing certain genetic conditions or diseases, including some types of cancer, such as ovarian cancer.

Once confirmed that you have ovarian cancer, your doctor will use information from your tests to assign your cancer a stage. There are four stages of ovarian cancer, often indicated as STAGE I to IV. 

The lowest stage suggests that the tumor is confined to the ovaries. By stage IV, ovarian cancer has spread to distant body areas.

What are the different treatment options for ovarian cancer? 

The treatment for ovarian cancer depends on various factors, including the cancer stage, the type of ovarian cancer, the patient’s overall health, and their preferences. 

The main treatment options include:

Cancer Surgery– Surgery is the most effective treatment for ovarian cancer and involves removing the tumor and surrounding tissues. The extent of surgery depends on the stage and size of the tumor. It may involve removing one or both ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus.

Surgery is considered the aptest option for ovarian cancer treatment because it:

  • Removes as much of the cancer as possible. This can improve survival rates, especially in early-stage cancer.
  • Provides information about the cancer. The surgeon can examine the removed tissue to determine the type of cancer, its stage, and whether it has spread.
  • Can help relieve symptoms. Surgery can remove the tumor and any other tissue that is causing symptoms, such as pain or pressure.

Surgery is typically considered the first line of treatment for ovarian cancer, regardless of the stage. However, there are some conditions in which surgery may not be possible, such as if the cancer has spread too widely. In these cases, other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, may be used instead.

  • Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC)– In extreme cases, the surgeon may also recommend HIPEC therapy as an added treatment to surgery. HIPEC is an advanced version of chemotherapy, where chemotherapy drugs are heated and infused into the abdomen during surgery. It is a highly effective method for eliminating minute cancer cells that remain after removing the tumors.
  • .Palliative Care– Palliative care focuses on alleviating pain and other symptoms of advanced ovarian cancer cases. It involves using medicines to reduce or control the side effects of cancer treatments.

Treatment plans are often developed through a multidisciplinary approach involving gynecologic oncologists, medical oncologists, and other healthcare specialists to ensure the most comprehensive and effective care. 

It is essential for patients to discuss treatment options thoroughly with their healthcare team to make informed decisions that align with their unique circumstances and preferences.

If you have a high risk of ovarian cancer, visit Dr. Amit Gandhi for a much-needed diagnosis. He is an expert oncologist who has successfully accomplished over 8000 surgeries in the last 15 years, including some of the most complicated and rarest surgeries performed with great precision.

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