Ovarian Cancer Screening

Ovarian cancer can often be hard to find because the warning signs of bloating, feeling full quickly, urinary problems and abdominal discomfort are not specific. No test can spot ovarian cancer before it develops.

Some factors make it more likely for you to get ovarian cancer: beginning your period at an early age, never being pregnant and having a family history. Women with a family member with ovarian cancer, especially before menopause, are at higher risk of getting it themselves.

For those women at higher risk, a combination of yearly ultrasounds and CA-125 tests may be helpful. CA-125 is a blood test that checks for a protein often given off by ovarian cancer cells. In 2008, a blood test for ovarian cancer, called OvaSure, became available. It has not yet been approved by the FDA. If you think you might be at higher risk, be sure to talk to your doctor about ovarian cancer detection.

Because ovarian cancer can be hard to catch early, many women at high risk choose to have their ovaries removed. This can be done by a surgery called prophylactic oophorectomy. Birth control pills may also help to prevent ovarian cancer by stopping ovarian cycling.

When found early, when the disease has not spread outside the ovaries, 9 out of 10 women with ovarian cancer will survive for at least five years.