Ovarian Cancer
Diagnosis and Staging

This page covers tests that are often used to help diagnose and stage ovarian cancer.
Depending on the symptoms you have, you may also be asked to undergo other tests and investigations.

“You can be a victim of cancer, or a survivor of cancer. It’s a mindset.” 

Dave Pelzer 

Diagnostic Tests to Determine Cancer Type

Once the doctor is sure of an abnormality, a biopsy is done to determine further details about the type of cancer present.

Biopsy

What to expect

A biopsy is usually the best way to tell for certain if an abnormal area is cancerous or not. This procedure involves collecting a sample of tissue for further analysis in a lab. In most cases, a biopsy is needed before any treatment starts. While the screening tests for ovarian cancer are generally painless, a biopsy can cause discomfort, bleeding or even pain. There are generally two types of biopsies used to diagnose ovarian cancers

Image-guided biopsy
In this method, the doctor will pass a fine needle through the skin, using a CT or ultrasound scan to guide them to the right place. Your doctor will normally use local anaesthesia to complete this procedure. You may also be given a mild sedative to help you relax. You will usually be kept under observation for a few hours after this test, or sometimes overnight.

Laparoscopy
This is a surgical procedure used to take biopsies. You will be given a general anaesthetic (i.e. you will be asleep) during the operation. The doctor will make a few small cuts in the abdomen. Then he or she will pump gas into the abdominal wall, to gain better visibility of the internal organs. Next, your doctor will pass a thin tube with a small camera at one end into the abdomen. This instrument is called a laparoscope. The doctor will then examine the area carefully and take biopsies. You may experience some pain or discomfort after the procedure, but this will usually subside after a day or two. You will usually be kept under observation for a few hours after this test, or sometimes overnight.

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