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Diagnosis and Results

Diagnosis & Results

How to test and check for ovarian cancer with your GP

Diagnosing Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer can be difficult to diagnose at an early stage as symptoms can be vague and similar to those of other common illnesses. As there is no screening test for ovarian cancer, it is important to recognise if you are experiencing any symptoms which are persistent and troublesome, you should see your doctor.

Testing For Ovarian Cancer

Your GP is usually the first person you go to if you have symptoms.

If your doctor suspects ovarian cancer, there are several tests they can perform to diagnose ovarian cancer or to help decide whether your symptoms may be due to other causes.

They will examine you, ask about your symptoms and possibly order tests such as a CA125 blood test and an ultrasound.  As an additional check for ovarian cancer, they may also want to do an internal vaginal examination to see if your uterus and ovaries feel normal. If you prefer, you can ask for a female doctor to do this. It is your choice: do not be afraid to ask.

How CA125 blood tests help to diagnose ovarian cancer:

The CA125 blood test is looking for a specific type of protein or a tumour marker called CA125. This protein is often higher than normal in women with ovarian cancer.

How an ultrasound helps to diagnose ovarian cancer:

An ultrasound creates a picture of your internal organs (ovaries and uterus) on a computer by using echoes from soundwaves. This test is done by a sonographer. It can be done in two ways:

  • Abdominal ultrasound

  • Transvaginal ultrasound (preferred as it gives a clearer picture)

If the ultrasound and other tests indicate you have cancer, your GP will refer you to a specialist in women’s health and cancer (a gynaecological oncologist). You should be seen within two weeks. Guidelines recommend your specialist is a gynaecological oncologist who works as part of a multi-disciplinary team. A list is available on Canrefer.

The specialist will do a physical examination and take a detailed health history. They will also ask you about your family history of cancer. They will most likely also order further tests to work out how far the cancer has grown and if it has spread to other parts of your body.  

Further tests and checks to diagnose ovarian cancer may include:

  • Computerised tomography (CT) scan is (a three-dimensional (3D) image of your internal organs

  • Biopsy (a tissue sample (biopsy) is taken and tested to help confirm cancer)

  • Chest x-ray to check if a cancer has spread to the lungs

  • Removal of fluid from your abdomen if it has built up

  • Laparoscopy to enable tissue samples to be taken for testing in the laboratory

  • Laparotomy is offered if a laparoscopy is not suitable.

If you need further tests, your doctor will discuss them in more detail with you.

Waiting for results

Waiting for the results of your tests is usually a stressful time. You and those close to you are likely to feel very nervous and worry about what your future holds. It is only natural to think the worst. However, try to take it one day at a time. Some tests will come back within a day or two but others can take much longer: up to a week or more. The waiting can feel like an eternity.

It can help to ask your doctors and nurses exactly how long it will take to get each result back. Having this information can help control your anxiety and stop waking each day hoping ‘today will be the day’. During the waiting time you may find it helps to speak with close friends and family, and you can also call the Ovarian Cancer Australia Helpline to speak to an ovarian cancer nurse on 1300 660 334 during business hours.

Optimal Care Pathway

Access the Department of Health’s ovarian cancer care pathway which provides you with consistent, safe, and evidence-based practices to all women undergoing ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment. It ensures your care, treatment and support are of the highest quality possible.

You can refer to this pathway to learn about the optimum standards of care at each stage of ovarian cancer diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. While treatment for women may vary, the expected standards of care should not differ whether treatment is provided in the public or private service.

Being Diagnosed With Ovarian Cancer

For more information on what happens following an ovarian cancer diagnosis, including what to do next and information for younger women please refer to the page below.

Want to talk?

Ovarian Cancer Australia's Helpline is available to call 9am - 5pm AET Monday to Friday 

Related Pages

Understanding Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is an umbrella term for many different types of the disease. Through ongoing research, we are learning so much more about what it is, how it behaves, and how best to treat it. 

Risks and Causes

Some of the known risk factors for ovarian cancer include increasing age, hereditary factors, and other additional factors.

Genetics and Ovarian Cancer

Many people wonder what caused their cancer. They also worry it may be a hereditary cancer that other family members may get. You may also be a family member of someone diagnosed with ovarian cancer, concerned about your own risk of developing a cancer yourself.

Acknowledgement flags

Ovarian Cancer Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where our office is located, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation and we pay our respects to Elders past and present.