This blog is written by our clinicians and aims to keep patients informed with up to date information on medical conditions.
Ovaries are part of the female reproductive system. They produce and store eggs. Ovarian cancer refers to any cancerous growth that develops in the ovaries.
There are 7,500 new cases of ovarian cancer every year in the UK. That means 21 people are diagnosed every day. (1)
Anyone with ovaries can develop cancer. This includes women, trans men, non-binary people, and intersex people.
Certain factors can increase your risk of ovarian cancer. These factors include increasing age, excess body fat, smoking, and genetics.
Unfortunately, ovarian cancer symptoms can be vague. Many people may not notice their symptoms in the early stages of the disease.
Ovarian cancer symptoms:
- General discomfort in the abdomen
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Feeling full without eating large volumes
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Unintentional weight loss
Ovarian cancer can be missed in its early stages. In over 70% of cases, ovarian cancer isn’t diagnosed until late stage. (2)
The good news is that early detection of ovarian cancer can improve survival rate. When diagnosed early, 93% of people with ovarian cancer will live for at least 5 years following diagnosis. When the diagnosis is made in the latest stage of ovarian cancer, only 13% will survive for 5 years or more. (1)
Your doctor will examine you to look for signs of cancer. As part of this, they will carry out a pelvic and internal examination to check for masses in your reproductive system.
Ovarian Cancer Blood Test
Your doctor will take a sample of your blood to test for any abnormalities. If they suspect ovarian cancer they will order a test for a marker called CA-125. Tumour cells release CA-125, so people with ovarian cancer often have higher levels in their bloodstream. Unfortunately, the CA-125 test is not always accurate.
At ROC we use a special ovarian cancer blood test called the ROMA test. This stands for Risk of Ovarian Malignancy Test. The ROMA test can be used to detect early ovarian cancer.
Using a blood sample, we measure the levels of two markers, CA-125 and HE4. Like CA-125, the levels of HE4 are elevated in ovarian cancer, but HE4 is a more reliable marker.
We then use an algorithm and information about your menopausal status to calculate your risk of ovarian cancer. Combining CA-125 and HE4 levels is one of the most effective tools for diagnosing ovarian cancer.
In order to visualise the ovaries, your medical team will carry out an ultrasound. In an ultrasound, a specialist technician uses ultrasound waves to create an image of the ovaries. This can show your medical team whether there are any suspicious masses present.
At ROC we know that waiting for scans and results can be incredibly stressful. That’s why we offer same-day ultrasound scans. If our doctors feel you need an ultrasound scan, they will organise one for you straight away.
Depending on the results of the above tests your doctor may order further investigations. For example, a computerised tomography (CT) scan.
We know how important having peace of mind about your health is. At ROC we offer screening for a number of cancers. Our team of experienced clinicians are here to help.
- Ovarian cancer statistics. Cancer Research UK. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/ovarian-cancer#heading-Two. Published 2022. Accessed March 09, 2022.
- Dochez V, Caillon H, Vaucel E, Dimet J, Winer N, Ducarme G. Biomarkers and algorithms for diagnosis of ovarian cancer: CA125, HE4, RMI and ROMA, a review. J Ovarian Res. 2019;12(1):28. Published 2019 Mar 27. doi:10.1186/s13048-019-0503-7