Having tests for ovarian cancer
There are some tests that you might have at your doctor's or at hospital, which will help them to see if you might have ovarian cancer.
So I went for an ultrasound scan and this was this would have been about six weeks after my nineteenth birthday so I went for the ultrasound scan and then that evening after I had the scan the Doctor, my GP called at the house to say that they'd found a large ovarian cyst.
If you think you might have some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer you should go to your GP. They'll be able to talk to you about your symptoms, and if they think they could be because of cancer they can do tests to find out more.
Your GP will talk to you about your symptoms, examine you and arrange for you see a doctor at the hospital who specialises in problems of the reproductive system (called a gynaecologist).
If your doctor thinks there's a chance you might have cancer you’ll need to have an internal examination, to check the organs in your pelvis. This might be done by your GP, or at the hospital by a specialist who specialises in problems of the reproductive system.
For an internal examination you’ll lie on your back with your feet drawn up and your knees apart. The doctor will gently put one or two fingers inside your vagina and press a little on your lower tummy. Although it shouldn’t be painful it can feel uncomfortable.
Having this done might make you feel embarrassed, but doctors are used to doing this procedure and it’s over quickly. If it’s done by a male doctor, there will usually be a female nurse present, but if not you can ask for one. You can have someone you feel close to with you during the examination, or if you prefer you can ask whoever’s with you to go out until it’s over. You can do whatever you feel most comfortable with.
The specialist will carry out an internal examination to check if there’s anything unusual in the shape and position of your ovaries and womb. You might already have had an internal examination done by your GP. We've explained what happens above.
The specialist will arrange for you to have some tests. Different tests are used to diagnose germ cell tumours of the ovary:
Blood tests to check for chemicals in the blood called tumour markers. Some germ cell tumours produce high levels of these. The main ones are AFP (alpha-fetoprotein) and HCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin). They’re used to diagnose germ cell tumours and to check how well treatment is working.
An ultrasound scan - this uses sound waves to build up a picture of your ovaries and the surrounding area on a computer screen. The person doing the scan will rub ome gel on your tummy and gently move a small device over the area to produce the picture. You can also have an ultrasound scan done through the vagina (transvaginal ultrasound), to get a clearer picture. A small probe (about the size of a tampon) is gently put inside your vagina. It’s not painful but it can be a bit uncomfortable. You can have someone with you during the test if you want to.
A CT scan - this takes a series of x-rays, which build up a 3D picture of the area of the body being scanned. It can show up the size and position of a tumour.
A laparoscopy - this is a test that’s sometimes done to look inside your tummy at your ovaries. You’ll need to have a general anaesthetic, but you can usually have the lapatoscopy done as a day patient. The surgeon makes a small cut in the skin in your lower tummy (just above the bikini line). Then they put a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the end (called a laparoscope) through the cut to look at the ovaries.
The ovary is then sent to be looked at under a microscope to find out exactly what type of tumour it is.
The stage of a cancer describes its size and whether it’s spread anywhere else in the body. It helps your doctors plan the best treatment for you.
Cancer can spread through the blood or the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps protect us against infection and disease. It’s made up of a network of lymph nodes (glands), joined together by tiny tubes that carry fluid called lymph. During your operation to remove the ovary, the surgeon will check the lymph nodes in your tummy (abdomen) for cancer.
Your specialist won’t be able to tell you the exact stage of the cancer until after the op to remove your ovary. Most germ cell tumours are diagnosed early when they’re in one or sometimes both ovaries but haven’t spread anywhere else in the body.
Stage 1 - when the tumour is in one or both ovaries.
Stage 2 - it has spread in the pelvis to areas nearby, such as the womb or fallopian tubes.
Stage 3 - it has spread outside the pelvis to the tummy (abdomen) or to the lymph nodes at the back of the tummy.
Stage 4 - the tumour has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver or the lungs.
This information is about having tests for ovarian cancer. We've got more information about:
If you're looking for information about ovarian cancer in women of all ages, please see our ovarian cancer section.