Detection and Diagnosis
Blood test: In some instances, a sample of blood may be analyzed to determine its level of CA-125 (also called OC-125), a tumor marker for ovarian cancer. However, this test is not always an accurate method of determining whether a woman has ovarian cancer and is usually performed in conjunction with other tests.
If imaging tests suggest that a woman may have ovarian cancer, a biopsy may be performed to confirm the presence of cancer. A biopsy involves removing a portion of the ovary tissue (or fluid) and analyzing it under a microscope to determine whether it contains cancer cells. Tissue samples are obtained during surgery (often a laparotomy or laparascopy).
Laparotomy: This is a surgical procedure that involves an incision in the lower abdomen between the navel and the pubic area. Essentially, a laparotomy is exploratory surgery; the surgeon examines the area and removes a sample of fluid or tissue for analysis. If the surgeon suspects that cancer is present during the operation, he or she may go ahead and remove the entire ovary during surgery. This helps prevent the spread of cancer cells into the abdominal cavity that could occur when only the outer layer of the ovary is cut during biopsy.
Laparascopy: This surgical procedure involves passing a flexible, lighted tube through a small incision in the abdomen. As with a laparotomy, the surgeon examines the area and removes a sample of fluid or tissue for analysis. Again, the entire ovary may be removed, if necessary, to prevent the further spread of cancer.
If cancer is confirmed with microscopic analysis, the patient and her cancer team should begin weighing treatment options. Click here to learn how ovarian cancer is treated.
Updated: January 10, 2008