Ovarian cancer often has no symptoms in its early stages. However, statistics from the American cancer society indicate that about 20% of ovarian cancers are discovered at an early stage.
When this happens, about 94% of these patients live longer than 5 years after diagnosis.
So how is it diagnosed? Tests and procedures used to diagnose ovarian cancer include;
1. Pelvic exam
During a pelvic exam, the health care professional feels the ovaries and uterus for size, shape, and consistency. A pelvic exam can be useful because it can find some female cancers at an early stage, but most early ovarian tumors are difficult or impossible to feel.
2. Imaging tests
Tests, such as ultrasound or CT scans of your abdomen and pelvis, may help determine the size, shape and structure of your ovaries.
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3. CA-125 blood test
A cancer antigen (CA) 125 test can detect a protein that's often found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells. These tests can't tell your doctor whether you have cancer, but may give clues about your diagnosis and prognosis.
4. Surgery (Biopsy)
Sometimes your doctor can't be certain of your diagnosis until you undergo surgery to remove an ovary and have it tested for signs of cancer.
This procedure uses a thin, lighted tube through which a doctor can look at the ovaries and other pelvic organs and tissues in the area. The tube is inserted through a small incision (cut) in the lower abdomen and sends the images of the pelvis or abdomen to a video monitor. Laparoscopy provides a view of organs that can help plan surgery or other treatments and can help doctors confirm the stage (how far the tumor has spread) of the cancer.
Once it's confirmed that you have ovarian cancer, your doctor will use information from your tests and procedures to assign your cancer a stage.
The stages of ovarian cancer are indicated using Roman numerals ranging from I to IV, with the lowest stage indicating that the cancer is confined to the ovaries. By stage IV, the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body.