Gynaecological cancer screening: ovarian cancer

Women are now being encouraged to have gynaecological cancer screening tests for various cancers, including ovarian cancer.

The ovaries are located low down in a woman’s tummy and are responsible for storing eggs. In most cases, it is women who have had the menopause who are more likely to get this gynaecological cancer, although it can occur in younger women.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer

There are several symptoms related to ovarian cancer. These include a feeling of constant bloating, a swollen stomach, discomfort in the pelvic or tummy area, and feeling full when eating only small amounts. These symptoms are incredibly similar to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, so if you do have these symptoms you need to stay calm and seek medical help.

When you should seek medical advice

When you have any of the above symptoms, it’s always best to see your GP. If your mother, sister or maternal grandparent has had ovarian cancer, then you will be at a higher risk. So, please do seek a medical opinion.

What screening is available for ovarian cancer?

The most common investigation is a pelvic exam. There are two tests to investigate for ovarian cancer. These are the TVUS (transvaginal ultrasound) and a blood test called CA-125.

The TVUS is used to look at the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes via an ultrasound. This will help to see whether there is a mass in the ovary, but it won’t be able to determine if the mass is cancerous or benign, as further tests will be needed. This is when the blood test, CA-125, is useful, as it measures the level of CA-125 protein in the blood. A woman who has higher levels of this protein is more likely to have ovarian cancer. However, higher levels are also associated with endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease. This is why the blood test is usually repeated and combined with the TVUS.

If you are concerned that you may have symptoms related to ovarian cancer, then please do seek medical help. Consultant Gynaecologist Tania Adib is a female gynaecologist in London who can help you through this anxious time in your life.