Ovarian cancer detection

Christina S. Chu, MD
Last Modified: May 12, 2002


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
What are the tests for ovarian cancer? I have a regular yearly check up with Pap smear and I understand that ovarian cancer will not show up on this test. I have had several tests done for loss of appetite and weight loss (I have lost approximately 45 lbs), upper GI, MRI. I am now 51. Should I ask my doctor to perform a particular test for ovarian cancer or should it have turned up on past test already performed?  


Christina S. Chu, MD, Assistant Professor of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

Unfortunately, there is no perfect screening test for ovarian cancer. The Pap test you mentioned is a screening test for cervical cancer only, and is not designed to test for ovarian cancer. For patients at high risk for ovarian cancer (where ovarian and breast cancer runs in the family), a combination of transvaginal ultrasound, blood test for CA-125, and routine pelvic examination may sometimes be used to try to detect ovarian cancer. Your symptoms sound concerning, but may not be specific for ovarian cancer. If your MRI covered the abdomen as well as the pelvis and did not show any abnormalities, ovarian cancer is an unlikely cause of your symptoms.