Ovarian cancer occurs when the cells that line the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or peritoneum near the ovaries grow out of control.
Only about 20% of ovarian cancer cases are detected at an early stage, showing, in these cases, a high survival rate: approximately 94% of patients live over 5 years after diagnosis. However, ovarian cancer mortality is quite high because most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage.
For this reason, it is very important to perform periodic examinations and tests to detect ovarian cancer at an early stage, especially in case of presenting symptoms or a high risk of suffering from this pathology.
Although there is no totally reliable ovarian cancer screening test, there are some screening tests that can help diagnose the disease. We describe them below.
Routine pelvic examination
During a pelvic exam, it is difficult to detect ovarian cancer at an early stage, but it is still important as it can help diagnose other conditions or symptoms of this pathology, if they occur.
It is very important to undergo regular pelvic exams to detect this and other pathologies.
CA-125 blood test
This test measures the CA-125 protein levels. As a screening test for ovarian cancer it is quite imprecise, as there are other factors that can also alter the level of this protein in a woman. However, it can help establishing a first diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
This test can also be used during treatment in women who have already been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, to check if the body is responding well to the given treatment.
The biopsy involves extracting a sample of the tumor for later examination. In ovarian cancer, this test is usually done during the surgery to remove the tumor.
Through a small incision in the lower abdomen, a small camera is inserted that sends images of the pelvis or abdomen to a monitor. This test is used to determine the stage of the cancer. In addition, it can also be used to perform a biopsy.
They are used to get pictures of the inner body. There are different types:
- TVUS (transvaginal ultrasound): This test uses sound waves to examine the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries by placing an ultrasound probe or transducer into the vagina. This test is very useful to detect tumors in the ovaries, although it is not possible to determine whether it is a benign or cancerous tumor.
- CT scan: CT scan is an x-ray study that produces detailed cross-sectional images of the body. This study can help determine if ovarian cancer has spread to other organs.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Like CT scans, cross-sectional images of the inner body are also created. However, this test uses strong magnets to produce the images, not radiation.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET-CT): Radioactive glucose is used to look for cancer, and although it does not show such a detailed image, it provides useful information to help determine if the abnormal areas seen in these other studies are cancer or not.
These are the most common tests used to detect ovarian cancer, or once it has already been diagnosed, to examine and plan future treatment.
If you need more information or to contact a team of oncological surgeons who are experts in ovarian cancer, please contact Quénet Torrent Institute here.
- American Cancer Society. Can ovarian cancer be detected early? Last consultation 11/17/2020. Available online at: https://www.cancer.org/es/cancer/cancer-de-ovario/deteccion-diagnostico-clasificacion-por-etapas/deteccion.html
- American Cancer Society. What Causes Ovarian Cancer ?. Last consultation 11/17/2020. Available online at: https://www.cancer.org/es/cancer/cancer-de-ovario/deteccion-diagnostico-clasificacion-por-etapas/deteccion.html
- Spanish Association Against Cancer. How to detect ovarian cancer. Last consultation 11/17/2020. Available online at: https://www.aecc.es/es/todo-sobre-cancer/tipos-cancer/cancer-ovario/diagnostico