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Ovarian cancer

Diagnosis of ovarian cancer

Doctors most often identify gynecologic cancers such as ovarian cancer during an annual exam or screening. Diagnostic tools may include:

  • Pelvic exam, where your doctor can feel the reproductive organs to check for abnormalities and possible tumor growth.
  • Pap smears can identify some types of cancerous cells, though they are mainly used for cervical cancer and can’t always diagnose ovarian cancers.
  • Imaging tests, such as ultrasounds, CT, or PET scans, generate images of the reproductive organs and identify any potential cancerous growth.
  • Blood tests for “tumor markers” or cancerous cells and enzymes. This test is typically more accurate for people who have already passed menopause.
  • Biopsy, for when your doctor does identify an unusual mass or growth in your ovaries, fallopian tubes, or peritoneal area. He or she may remove a small amount of tissue to see whether the mass is benign or cancerous.
  • Additional testing, which is further laboratory testing to determine the type of cancer if present, and optimal treatment approach.

Dignity Health OBGYN specialists offer comprehensive, expert testing to rule out cancer for those experiencing reproductive symptoms.


Treatment options for ovarian, fallopian tube, and peritoneal cancer depend upon the type and stage of cancer. The earlier cancer can be identified, and the less it has spread beyond its origin point, the easier it is to treat.

Surgery is the primary treatment for these three cancers. Other treatments include chemotherapy and targeted therapies for specific types of cancer. Your doctor may use radiation to treat areas where cancer has spread as well.

Certain women at high risk of developing cancer may want to consider preventive surgery such as hysterectomy. This procedure involves removal of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and/or uterus.

If you undergo a partial or complete hysterectomy and removal of your ovaries, you will not be able to have children and will not menstruate. Medically, you will be in menopause. Your doctor may recommend additional hormonal therapy to replace your hormones. Speak with your doctor to see if this choice may be right for you.


Recovery from ovarian cancers depend on the type of cancer, how early it is diagnosed, and how far it spread throughout your body. 

If you undergo surgery to treat ovarian cancer, it make take a couple of weeks before you have recovered enough to return to your normal activities. Most women are able to return to their typical exercise and daily routines by 4-8 weeks after surgery.

After you complete your course of treatment, your doctor will discuss the follow-up plan, which may include periodic checkups to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.