If an ovarian growth is suspected, an ultrasound of the ovaries is done. If any abnormality is detected, further testing will be done. Tests include blood studies, CT scans, barium enema X-rays, colonoscopy, MRI, and chest X-rays to help evaluate the extent of the cancer. Ultimately, the surgical opening of the abdomen (exploratory laparotomy) is necessary to confirm or rule out an ovarian cancer diagnosis.
Genetic testing may be useful for women who have a family history of ovarian, uterine (endometrial), or breast cancer. This testing can reveal if you have inherited a gene mutation that is associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer. However, the presence (or lack) of these mutations does not necessarily predict whether you will go on to develop ovarian cancer. And, if you carry a mutation and want to take steps to help prevent ovarian cancer, you may consider removal of the ovaries.
Although ovarian cancer rarely produces symptoms in its earliest stages, eventual warning signs may include:
Vague digestive disturbances, such as mild indigestion, bloating, feeling of fullness, or loss of appetite, gas
Diarrhea, constipation, or a frequent need to urinate
Pain or swelling in the abdomen, or pain in the lower back or pelvic pressure
Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods or after menopause
Symptoms associated with advanced ovarian cancer include...
Surgery is the standard treatment for ovarian cancer. Ordinarily, the two ovaries and the other reproductive organs are removed. Young women who have only a small tumor in one ovary and who still want to have children may have just the cancerous ovary removed; the second can be removed later to prevent cancer recurrence.
In most women with advanced disease, some cancer remains after surgery. A woman's prognosis depends on how much cancer remains and how well it responds to follow-up treatment. Most women receive chemotherapy, which can prolong survival and may result in a cure. Radiation therapy may be used to help alleviate symptoms or in certain patients with advanced disease. For certain groups of women targeted drug therapy is an option. Targeted drugs make changes specifically to the cancer cells without affecting normal, healthy cells.
Even if no cancer is detected after treatment, follow-up exams are essential; women who have had the disease may be at greater risk for breast and colorectal cancer.