Cancer screening exams can help find cancer at its earliest stage when the chances for successful treatment, optimal outcomes and fewer side effects are greatest. These tests are usually done when a patient is healthy and has no specific symptoms.

Not only are expert cancer researchers at the OSUCCC – James continually working to detect and diagnose ovarian cancer early, but they are also developing additional tests to detect and diagnose cancer even earlier, leading to improved outcomes, faster responses and fewer side effects. 

Unlike with some cancers, there are currently no recommended screening exams for ovarian cancer. Several possible methods are being researched that could improve early screening for the disease. The best early detection of ovarian cancer is to understand the symptoms and risk factors of the disease and see a doctor immediately if you have any concerns.

Women at high risk for ovarian cancer because of hereditary patterns should consider genetic analysis for prevention and early detection.

Ovarian Cancer Risk Factors

A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of developing ovarian cancer. The following factors increase a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer: 

Family History of Ovarian Cancer

Women whose mother or sister had ovarian cancer have an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Women with two or more relatives with ovarian cancer also have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.


Inherited Risk

The risk of ovarian cancer is increased in women who have inherited certain changes in the following genes: 

  • BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes 
  • Genes that are linked to Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC))

Personal History of Cancer 

Women who have had cancer of the breast, uterus, colon or rectum have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.

Age over 55 

Most women are over age 55 when diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Never Pregnant

Older women who have never been pregnant have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.


Menopausal Hormone Therapy 

Some studies have suggested that women who take estrogen by itself (estrogen without progesterone) for 10 or more years may have an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

(Source: National Cancer Institute

The presence of risk factors does not necessarily mean you have or will develop ovarian cancer. But if you have risk factors you should discuss them with your doctor.

Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer

Your doctor will evaluate your overall health and personal and family medical history for indications of ovarian cancer signs or risk factors and conduct a physical and pelvic examination.

Pelvic Exam

A doctor or nurse inserts one or two gloved and lubricated fingers into the vagina while placing the other hand on the lower abdomen. This examination enables a clinician to determine how the ovaries feel and if the size and shape of the ovaries and uterus are normal.

Ultrasound Exam

Ultrasound uses sound waves to evaluate the ovaries and can help show whether a lump has characteristics of a cancerous tumor or a noncancerous cyst or lump. With transvaginal ultrasound, the ultrasound probe is gently inserted into the vagina to capture better images of the ovaries.

Blood Analysis

A small sample of your blood is analyzed for levels of CA 125, a marker that sometimes can indicate ovarian cancer.

Computed Tomography

A computer tomography (CT) scan is an X-ray examination that makes a series of multidimensional images.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a high-powered magnet and radio waves to produce detailed images of the body.

Positron Emission Tomography

A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is an imaging examination used to find malignant tumor cells in the body. A small amount of radioactive tracer is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around your body and any areas where the tracer concentrates are highlighted. These areas are more active and usually indicate cancerous cells.

Biopsy

A surgeon removes a small sample of cells from your ovaries so they can be analyzed under a microscope for signs of cancer. 

It is recommended that women at high risk for, or with ovarian cancer be referred for genetic counseling and consider genetic testing.

Staging Ovarian Cancer 

If you receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis, staging helps your team of ovarian cancer specialists determine the extent and type of cancer, to create the best treatment. The staging classification remains the same throughout treatment.

Stage I

In stage I, cancer is found in one or both ovaries. Stage I is divided into stage IA, stage IB and stage IC.
  • Stage IA: Cancer is found inside a single ovary
  • Stage IB: Cancer is found inside both ovaries
  • Stage IC: Cancer is found inside one or both ovaries and one of the following is true:
    • Cancer is also found on the outside surface of one or both ovaries; or
    • The capsule (outer covering) of the ovary has ruptured (broken open); or
    • Cancer cells are found in the fluid of the peritoneal cavity (the body cavity that contains most of the organs in the abdomen) or in washings of the peritoneum (tissue lining the peritoneal cavity)

Stage II

In stage II, cancer is found in one or both ovaries and has spread into other areas of the pelvis. Stage II is divided into stage IIA, stage IIB and stage IIC.

  • Stage IIA: Cancer has spread to the uterus and/or the fallopian tubes (the long slender tubes through which eggs pass from the ovaries to the uterus)
  • Stage IIB: Cancer has spread to other tissue within the pelvis.
  • Stage IIC: Cancer is found in one or both ovaries and has spread to the uterus and/or fallopian tubes, or to other tissue within the pelvis
  • Also, one of the following is true:
    • Cancer is also found on the outside surface of one or both ovaries; or
    • The capsule (outer covering) of the ovary has ruptured (broken open); or
    • Cancer cells are found in the fluid of the peritoneal cavity (the body cavity that contains most of the organs in the abdomen) or in washings of the peritoneum (tissue lining the peritoneal cavity)

Stage III

In stage III, cancer is found in one or both ovaries and has spread outside the pelvis to other parts of the abdomen and/or nearby lymph nodes. Stage III is divided into stage IIIA, stage IIIB and stage IIIC.

  • Stage IIIA: The tumor is found in the pelvis only, but cancer cells that can be seen only with a microscope have spread to the surface of the peritoneum (tissue that lines the abdominal wall and covers most of the organs in the abdomen), the small intestines or the tissue that connects the small intestines to the wall of the abdomen
  • Stage IIIB: Cancer has spread to the peritoneum, and the cancer in the peritoneum is 2 centimeters or smaller
  • Stage IIIC: Cancer has spread to the peritoneum, and the cancer in the peritoneum is larger than 2 centimeters and/or cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the abdomen
Cancer that has spread to the surface of the liver is also considered stage III ovarian cancer.


Stage IV

In stage IV, cancer has spread beyond the abdomen to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or tissue inside the liver. 

Presence of cancer cells in the fluid around the lungs is also considered stage IV ovarian cancer. 

(Source: National Cancer Institute)


If you have received an ovarian cancer diagnosis, or if you want a second opinion or just want to speak to an ovarian cancer specialist, we are here to help you. Call 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment..

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