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Diagnosis of ovarian cancer

Serum markers

If ovarian cancer is suspected because of symptoms and/or an abnormal physical examination, imaging tests of the abdomen and pelvis (such as a CT scan) are usually recommended initially. In the presence of ascites (fluid in the peritoneal cavity,) a procedure to remove some fluid can be undertaken to confirm the diagnosis. Most women who are suspected of having ovarian cancer undergo a blood test to measure the level of a protein tumour marker called CA 125. If this is very high a diagnosis of ovarian cancer may be made with additional information from imaging and analysis of fluid from the abdomen.


The only way to diagnose ovarian cancer with certainty in the majority of patients is with an operation. This may involve an open operation (exploratory laparotomy) or using a small incision and a laparoscope (diagnostic laparotomy).

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