Detecting Ovarian Cancer

It's important to undergo annual examination if you have family history of ovarian cancer to obtain an early diagnosis and to prevent further problems.
Detecting Ovarian Cancer
Mariel Mendoza

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Mariel Mendoza.

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 17 November, 2022

Detecting diseases as serious as ovarian cancer is important as they tend to manifest through signs women don’t often associate with it. However, you should be able to identify certain sings and pay attention to them to be able to reverse them. Continue reading for some tips on how to detect this condition and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Detecting ovarian cancer at an early stage is the key to being able to treat it before it worsens. Around 20% of ovarian cancer cases are detected in the first stage. It translates into a 94 percent chance of saving a patient’s life.

Stages of ovarian cancer

There are four degrees of ovarian cancer depending on how far it’s extended throughout the body:

  • The first stage: It’s affecting one or both ovaries
  • Stage 2: It’s only affecting the pelvis
  • The third stage: There’s a tumor outside of the pelvis but limited to the abdomen, or involving the lymph nodes but not the interior of the liver
  • Stage 4: The tumor is already on the liver or outside the abdomen

How to detect ovarian cancer

1. Routine examinations

You must undergo routine checkups from time to time to find out if everything’s alright. There’s nothing like prevention to be able to detect a possible problem early on. During a pelvic exam, the doctor will feel the ovaries and uterus to examine their size, shape and consistency. This way, any type of cancer associated with the reproductive system can be found at an early stage.

ovarian cancer

There’s a test known as the Papanicolaou. It’s effective for early detection of cancer in the uterine ring. However, it doesn’t detect ovarian cancer unless it’s already at an advanced stage.

2. Be careful with the genetic component

About 10 percent of cases of ovarian cancer are genetic. This means there’s likely a family history of this disease. Women at higher risk can have a test to evaluate the mutations in their genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. It’s a simple blood test to determine her risk of cancer but can also determine if she’s already at an early stage of it.

3. Detection tests in advanced stages

There are several procedures a doctor may use to see how far along the ovarian cancer is in woman who’ve already been diagnosed:

  • A hysterectomy
  • The removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes
  • A biopsy or dissection of the aortic and pelvic lymph nodes
  • A biopsy of the omentum.

A doctor will suggest chemotherapy before performing surgery if a woman is in stage four of ovarian cancer — with metastasis outside of the abdomen and inside of the liver.

A drawing of female genitals.

Possible treatments for ovarian cancer

Overall, pharmaceutical treatments for ovarian cancer have less side effects than other chemotherapy medications. There are two ways to give chemotherapy: intravenously or directly to the abdomen.

According to recent studies, the intraperitoneal administration significantly increases survival.

Is there an effective way to prevent it?

There’s no known way to prevent ovarian cancer in addition to periodically testing.

Removing your fallopian tubes and ovaries can prevent the disease but it’s invasive and there are serious contraindications to take into account.

The risk of ovarian cancer in women who’ve taken the pill for about 10 years reduces significantly. Similarly, the possibility of developing an ovarian tumor in women who’ve undergone tubal ligation is also low.

In any case, have annual check-ups or biopsies to analyze the cells and ensure that everything is okay. It’s the best way to detect a problem on time and will give you peace of mind.