Having tests

If you think you might have any symptoms of ovarian cancer you should see your GP. If they think these could be because of cancer, they can do tests to find out more.

These tests might include:

  • a blood test 
  • an ultrasound of the ovaries
  • an internal (vaginal) examination, to check for any lumps or swelling. 

After these tests, your GP may arrange for you to see a gynaecologist for further examination and tests. This is a doctor who specialises in women’s health. 

These further tests may include: 

  • A CT scan to build up a 3D picture of the area being scanned using x-rays.
  • An MRI scan to build up a picture of the inside of the area being scanned using magnetism.
  • A laparoscopy, where your cancer doctor will look inside your tummy at your ovaries. It is done under a general anaesthetic. You can usually go home the same day.

Having tests and waiting for the results can be an anxious time. Talking about how you feel and getting support from family, friends, your doctor or specialist nurse can help. 

Visiting your GP

If you think you might have any symptoms of ovarian cancer you should see your GP. They will be able to talk to you about your symptoms. If they think these could be because of cancer, they can do tests to find out more.

I went for an ultrasound and then that evening after I had the scan, my GP called at the house to say that they'd found a large ovarian cyst.


Tests

These might include:

  • a blood test
  • an ultrasound of the ovaries
  • an internal (vaginal) examination, to check for any lumps or swelling.

For an internal examination, you 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. It should not be painful, but it can feel uncomfortable. It doesn’t take long.

You may feel embarrassed during this examination. Let your doctor or nurse know so they can support you. Remember they are used to helping people through check-ups like this. If you have questions or worries about having an internal examination, tell the nurse or doctor. They can answer any questions you have and explain ways they can make it easier for you.

You can have a friend or relative stay with you during the examination. Or you can ask whoever is with you to wait outside the room until it’s over. Do whatever feels right for you.

After these tests, your GP may arrange for you to see a gynaecologist. This is a doctor who specialises in women’s health.


At the hospital

The gynaecologist will do an internal examination to check if there is anything unusual in your ovaries and womb. Your GP may have already done an internal examination.


More tests

The gynaecologist will arrange for you to have some more tests. Different tests are used to diagnose germ cell tumours of the ovary:

Blood tests

Blood tests check for chemicals in the blood, called tumour markers. Some germ cell tumours produce high levels of these.

Ultrasound scans

Ultrasound scans use sound waves to make a picture of your ovaries and the area around them on a computer screen. The person doing the scan will rub some gel on your tummy and gently move a small device over your tummy to produce the picture. You may also have an ultrasound scan done through the vagina (called a transvaginal ultrasound), to get a clearer picture. A small probe about the size of a tampon is gently put inside your vagina. It isn’t painful but it can be a bit uncomfortable. You can have someone with you during the test if you want to.

CT scans

CT scans take a series of x-rays, which build up a 3D picture of the area being scanned. It can show up the size and position of a tumour.

MRI scans

MRI scans use magnetism to build up a picture of the inside of the area being scanned. It can help doctors tell if a tumour is cancer or not. It also helps to show the size and position of a tumour.

Laparoscopy

Laparoscopy is a test that is sometimes done to look inside your tummy at your ovaries. It is done under a general anaesthetic. You can usually go home the same day.

The surgeon makes 3 or 4 small cuts 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 one of the cuts to look at the ovaries.

Sometimes, the surgeon will remove the ovary during the laparoscopy but they will discuss this with you before you have the surgery. The removed ovary will be looked at under a microscope to find out what type of tumour it is.

Having tests and waiting for the results can be an anxious time. Talking about how you feel and getting support from family, friends, your doctor or specialist nurse can help.

Back to Ovarian cancer

The ovaries

To understand ovarian cancer, it helps to know a bit about the ovaries.

Life after treatment

Find out what will happen when you finish treatment for ovarian cancer, and how you can cope with any effects.