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Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer

The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. The belly and pelvic areas will be thoroughly examined. This will include a pelvic exam. The doctor will look at and feel the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. The doctor may suspect ovarian cancer based on symptoms. However, other possible causes need to be ruled out. If ovarian cancer is suspected, referral will be made to a specialist.

Suspicion of Ovarian Cancer

If there are symptoms, the doctor will do certain tests. These may include:

  • Blood tests —Certain substances are released in blood when a tumor develops. Tests will look for tumor markers, such as CA-125 or other blood proteins. Levels of tumor markers may be higher if there is cancer. Tumor markers are also helpful in cancer staging. They are also used to see if treatments are working.
  • Imaging tests —Imaging looks for tumors and the spreading of the cancer. Imaging tests may include:
    • Ultrasound—may be done through the surface of the belly or by sliding a probe into the vagina
    • MRI scan
    • CT scan


  • Committee on Gynecologic Practice, Society of Gynecologic Oncology. Committee Opinion No. 716: the role of the obstetrician-gynecologist in the early detection of epithelial ovarian cancer in women at average risk. Obstet Gynecol. 2017;130(3):e146-e149.
  • General information about ovarian epithelial, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/ovarian/patient/ovarian-epithelial-treatment-pdq. Accessed March 23, 2022.
  • Ovarian cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ovarian-cancer. Accessed March 23, 2022.
  • Ovarian cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/gynecologic-tumors/ovarian-cancer. Accessed March 23, 2022.
  • Stages of ovarian epithelial, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/ovarian/patient/ovarian-epithelial-treatment-pdq#section/_130. Accessed March 23, 2022.
  • Tests for ovarian cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html. Accessed March 23, 2022.


  • Nicole Meregian, PA
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.