Unfortunately, the majority of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer have an advanced stage of the disease. This is because it is a difficult cancer to diagnose. Many of the symptoms are confounding, vague, and can be related to other illnesses (bloating, abdominal pain, frequent urination, etc.), thus delaying the diagnosis further.
When symptoms are present, the following tests may be performed to identify whether a cyst or tumor is present.
A pelvic examination, along with a rectovaginal examination, allows a doctor to feel for any abnormalities, such as lumps.
If the pelvic examination is abnormal or symptoms persist, then a transvaginal or pelvic ultrasound is usually performed to determine whether any cysts or tumors are present. Sedation is not required for this test.
Approximately 20% of women will be diagnosed with a pelvic mass at some point in their lifetime.12 However, only a small percentage of these masses will be malignant. The CA125™ test is not recommended for use in diagnosing patients with suspected ovarian cancer as there are other benign conditions, such as menstruation, pregnancy, or endometriosis, that can affect the CA125 value.
Getting Care from a Gynecologic Oncologist
A gynecologic oncologist specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of women with cancer of the reproductive organs. They are specially trained in the surgical removal and staging of tumors, along with the chemotherapy and radiation techniques that should be implemented following surgery. Research has shown that ovarian cancer patients who are treated by a gynecologic oncologist have better survival rates and lower rates of recurrence compared with those treated by a gynecologist or general surgeon.3,9 Therefore, seeking the care of a gynecologic oncologist when you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer is an important step in the treatment process.