Ultrasound scan for ovarian cancer

Ultrasound scans help diagnose ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer and primary peritoneal cancer. They help doctors know whether an abnormal area is cancer.

What is an ovarian ultrasound?

An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to create a picture of the organs in the pelvis and tummy area. A computer converts the sound waves into pictures that you can see on a screen.

You may have ultrasound scans to help diagnose:

If your CA125 levels are raised (35 IU/ml or above), your GP usually arranges an ultrasound scan. If you have not had an ultrasound, your specialist doctor at the hospital will arrange it.

Types of ultrasound

You may have either a pelvic ultrasound or a vaginal ultrasound. Or you may have them together.

Pelvic ultrasound

You will be asked to drink plenty of fluids before this scan so that your bladder is full. The person doing the scan will spread a gel onto your tummy. They will then gently press a small, hand-held device that produces sound waves against your skin.

Vaginal ultrasound

The person doing the scan will gently put a small ultrasound probe into the vagina. The probe is about the size of a tampon. It produces the sound waves. Although this scan sounds uncomfortable, you may find it easier than a pelvic ultrasound, as you do not need to have a full bladder.

We have more information about ultrasound scans.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our ovarian cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    Ledermann, Raja, Fotopoulou et al. Newly diagnosed and relapsed epithelial ovarian carcinoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology, 2013; Volume 24, Supplement 6. Updated online 2020. Available from www.esmo.org/guidelines (accessed July 2021)

    Management of epithelial ovarian cancer. Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN). Nov 2013 revised 2018. Available from www.sign.ac.uk

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We try to make sure our information is as clear as possible. We use plain English, avoid jargon, explain any medical words, use illustrations to explain text, and make sure important points are highlighted clearly.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected. Our aims are for our information to be as clear and relevant as possible for everyone.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.