Currently, the only definitive means of making an ovarian cancer diagnosis is through a surgical procedure in which ovarian tissue is obtained and examined by a pathologist. But if a woman has the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, experts recommend a combination of the following tests.

Pelvic/Rectal Exam

  • The pelvic and rectal examination includes feeling the ovaries and the uterus for any abnormalities in their shape or size.
  • Only 1/10,000 ovarian cancers are detected by this examination in asymptomatic women. However, it is the most practical means to diagnose.
  • Women need to be examined yearly as it is often the gynecologist who will filter out symptoms and identify those women who might need testing.

Transvaginal Ultrasound

  • Ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to create pictures. A trans-vaginal ultrasound is performed with a small instrument placed into the vagina.

CA-125 Blood Test

  • The CA-125 blood test is used to measure the level of cancer antigen 125, a substance in your blood that can increase when ovarian cancer is present.
  • It is not a screening tool. It can be negative in 50% of women with early disease and also in certain types of epithelial ovarian cancers.
  • Uterine fibroids, liver disease, inflammation of the fallopian tubes, and other types of cancer can raise a woman’s CA-125 level, often causing a false positive test for ovarian cancer.
  • Most doctors use the CA-125 level to monitor a patient after the diagnosis of ovarian cancer has been surgically confirmed, as it can be an indicator of persistent or recurrent disease.

CT Scan


  • May be useful if diagnosis is uncertain