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Diagnosis is the process of finding the cause of a health problem. The process of diagnosis may seem long and frustrating, but it is important for the doctor to rule out other reasons for a health problem before making a cancer diagnosis. Diagnostic tests for ovarian cancer are usually done when:
Many of the same tests used to initially diagnose cancer are used to determine the stage (how far the cancer has progressed). Your doctor may also order other tests to check your general health and to help plan your treatment. Tests may include the following.
|Diagnostic tests||Staging and other tests|
The medical history is a record of present symptoms, risk factors and all the medical events and problems a person has had in the past. The medical history of a woman’s family may also help the doctor to diagnose ovarian cancer.
In taking a medical history, the doctor will ask questions about:
A physical examination allows the doctor to look for any signs of ovarian cancer. During a physical examination, the doctor may:
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to make images of structures in the body. With a transvaginal ultrasound, the sound waves are produced by an ultrasound wand that is placed in the vagina and aimed at the ovaries. Transvaginal ultrasound is used to:
Tumour markers are substances – usually proteins – in the blood that may suggest the presence of ovarian cancer. Tumour marker tests are used to check a person’s response to cancer treatment, but they can also be used to diagnose some of the less common forms of ovarian cancer.
The tumour markers that may be measured are:
Blood chemistry tests measure certain chemicals in the blood. They show how well certain organs are functioning and can also be used to detect abnormalities. They are used to diagnose and stage ovarian cancer.
A CT scan uses special x-ray equipment to make 3-dimensional and cross-sectional images of organs, tissues, bones and blood vessels inside the body. A computer turns the images into detailed pictures. It is used to:
During a laparoscopy, the doctor places a thin tube (laparoscope) into the abdominal cavity through a small cut (incision) in the abdomen. Surgical instruments can be passed through the laparoscope to remove small pieces of tissue. Laparoscopy is done to:
During a biopsy, tissues or cells are removed from the body so they can be tested in a laboratory. The pathology report from the laboratory will confirm whether or not cancer cells are present in the sample.
Biopsies for ovarian cancer are done during a laparotomy. The surgery is used to diagnose, stage and treat ovarian cancer, often all at the same time. The surgeon makes a large cut (incision) in the abdomen to examine the organs in the abdominal cavity. During this surgery, the surgeon removes tissue samples from different parts of the pelvis and abdomen. The entire tumour is usually removed during this surgery. The samples are sent to the lab to help stage the cancer (this is called surgical staging).
A paracentesis is a procedure in which a hollow needle or tube is inserted through the skin and into the abdominal cavity. This procedure is done to remove a buildup of fluid in the abdomen (ascites). The fluid is examined for cancer cells.
An x-ray uses small doses of radiation to make an image of the body’s structures on film. It is used to look for signs of fluid around the lungs (pleural effusion) that could be caused by advanced ovarian cancer.
A complete blood count (CBC) measures the number and quality of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. A CBC is done to:
A barium enema may be done to see if the ovarian cancer has spread to the colon or to rule out colon cancer.
A colonoscopy may be done to see if the ovarian cancer has spread to the colon or to rule out colon cancer.
A PET scan uses radioactive materials (radiopharmaceuticals) to detect changes in the metabolic activity of body tissues. A computer analyzes the radioactive patterns and makes 3-dimensional colour images of the area being scanned. It may be used to find ovarian cancer that has recurred or has spread to other organs or tissues.
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