Some exams and tests that are done to look for or diagnose ovarian cancer include:
- A biopsy, which is the only way to know for sure if a woman has ovarian cancer. This usually is done with a laparotomy, through a cut (incision) in the belly.
- A physical exam, including a pelvic exam and Pap test. An ovarian lump may be felt during a pelvic exam. A rectovaginal exam may also be done to feel the pelvic organs.
- A cancer antigen 125 (CA-125) level, to measure a protein found on the surface of many ovarian cancer cells.
- A pelvic and transvaginal ultrasound, to look for an ovarian lump.
- A pelvic or abdominal CT scan or MRI, to check for the spread of cancer.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) doesn't recommend routine screening for ovarian cancer.2 They haven't found proof that having regular tests to find ovarian cancer early helps women live longer. But this recommendation isn't for women with known gene changes (such as BRCA) who have a higher risk for ovarian cancer.
Some experts recommend that women who have inherited a BRCA gene change and have not had their ovaries removed have a transvaginal ultrasound and a CA-125 blood test at least once a year, starting at age 35. Women who have inherited a BRCA1 gene change (not a BRCA2 gene change) may want to start having these tests as early as age 25.3