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Usually you begin by seeing your GP, who will examine you and may arrange for you to have tests, usually ultrasound scans and/or blood tests. If your GP suspects you might have ovarian cancer they will refer| you to be seen within two weeks by a specialist gynaecology cancer team for tests and specialist advice and treatment.
At the hospital, the gynaecologist (specialist in women’s health) will ask you about your general health and any previous medical problems before examining you. This will include an internal (vaginal) examination to check for any lumps or swellings.
The specialist may arrange for you to have a blood test and chest x-ray to check your general health.
You will have a blood test to check whether there are raised levels of the CA125 protein in your blood. CA125 is a protein that women normally have in their blood. The level may be higher in women with ovarian cancer, as it’s sometimes produced by ovarian cancer cells. However, raised levels of CA125 can also be found in some other types of cancer and in women who have other non-cancerous conditions.
There are several tests which may be used to diagnose ovarian cancer|. The tests may also show the stage of the cancer, which helps doctors decide whether or not it has spread to other parts of the body. These tests will help your doctor to plan the best treatment for you.
The Department of Health has given guidelines to GPs suggesting they should arrange an urgent appointment (within two weeks) with a specialist in ovarian diseases (a gynaecologist) for any woman who comes with one or other of the following problems:
The guidelines also recommend that GPs do an internal examination to check for lumps if you are over 45 and have persistent pain or swelling of the abdomen.
Of course, these problems can have other causes apart from cancer, and your GP should discuss these with you.
Content last reviewed: 1 February 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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