Screening is a way to evaluate people without symptoms to determine if they are at risk for cancer or have already developed cancer.

Screening Tests

Pelvic exam – your annual checkup includes a Pap smear for cervical cancer and a pelvic exam for other female disorders, including ovarian cancer. If you have a history of breast cancer or a mother or sister with ovarian cancer, make sure your health care provider is aware of your increased risk. If he or she cannot do a satisfactory pelvic exam (because of your weight, your anatomy, or the discomfort it causes) an ultrasound may be worthwhile.

Ultrasound – this procedure is not recommended as a routine screening test, but may be used as the next step if you are at high risk for ovarian cancer.

Blood test (CA-125) – CA-125 is a protein that is elevated in most cases of ovarian cancer. Levels of CA-125 can also be elevated in other conditions, such as endometriosis, so an elevation of CA-125 by itself is not specific for ovarian cancer. If you are at high risk (family history of ovarian cancer or breast cancer), you might discuss with your doctor the pros and cons of using the CA-125 blood test as a screening test for ovarian cancer.

Screening Guidelines

Because of the low rate of early diagnosis, a great deal of research is being done to identify a screening test that meets the requirements for ease, safety, cost, and accuracy. Until then, have a pelvic exam yearly, and ask your doctor if you have any risk factors that would warrant an ultrasound.