Currently, there is no specific screening test for ovarian cancer. In 2012, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) reaffirmed a 2008 recommendation against screening women for ovarian cancer. This recommendation applies to asymptomatic women but not to women at a high risk of developing ovarian cancer, such as those with a genetic mutation.
The need for a reliable method for early detection of ovarian cancer among asymptomatic women continues to drive ongoing research. In the meantime, regular physicals, pelvic exams, and an awareness of family history and symptoms are important.
The main laboratory test used to detect and monitor this condition in symptomatic women is CA-125 (Cancer antigen 125). A relatively new tumor marker that shows promise is HE4 (Human Epididymis Protein).
Other tests that may be ordered to help detect and monitor different types of ovarian tumors include:
- Epithelial tumors
- Germ cell tumors
- Stromal tumors
BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 are genetic tests that can determine if a woman is at high risk of developing ovarian cancer, but these tests are not used for diagnosis or monitoring.
Non-laboratory tests that are used to evaluate abnormalities include:
- Ultrasound (pelvic and/or transvaginal): uses sound waves to create a picture of the uterus and ovaries; it can help determine whether an ovarian growth is likely to be a cancer or a fluid-filled cyst.
- CT scan (computerized tomography)
- X-ray of the gastrointestinal tract
It is important to have regular checkups and to consult with a doctor if symptoms develop. Symptoms associated with ovarian cancer are subtle and non-specific, and there are many non-cancerous conditions that can cause similar symptoms.