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Can I Get Checked for Ovarian Cancer Before I Have Symptoms?

Screening tests check for signs of cancer in people who don't have any symptoms. The goal of these tests is to discover the disease at an early stage when it is easier to treat. With the current screening methods available, mass screening of women for ovarian cancer is not recommended at this time. Why not? Because current screening tests are not accurate enough to find ovarian cancer in most women. Still, you should see your doctor on a regular basis to get a pelvic exam as often as your doctor suggests.

Lab technician drawing blood from a person's arm

Are you at high risk for ovarian cancer?

Talk with your doctor about tests if you answer yes to one or both of these questions. Answering yes means you are at high risk for ovarian cancer.

  • Have you had breast, uterine, rectum, or colon cancer?

  • Has your mother, sister, or daughter had ovarian, breast, uterine, rectum, or colon cancer? These women are considered your first-degree relatives. If you have two or more first-degree relatives who have had ovarian cancer, this suggests a possible hereditary cause.

If you are at high risk for ovarian cancer, additional tests are recommended for you.

  • Pelvic exam

  • Transvaginal ultrasound

  • Blood test for the antigen CA-125, which is a protein found in the cells of some kinds of ovarian cancer. This is not a perfect screening test, however, because it is not elevated in all women with ovarian cancer. And if it is elevated, it does not necessarily mean you have ovarian cancer. 

  • A woman with risk factors for hereditary ovarian cancer should have a formal consultation with a genetic counselor with special expertise cancer.

One of the most important things you can do is be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. If you have symptoms of ovarian cancer, such as a need to urinate frequently, bloating, or abdominal discomfort almost every day for more than a few weeks, and they can't be explained by other more common conditions, go see your gynecologist as soon as possible.

Online Medical Reviewer: Akin, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 6/30/2014
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.
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