If your gynecologist or primary care doctor suspects your symptoms are related to ovarian cancer, you may have one or more of the following examinations as a first round of tests.

Physical Exam
While checking your general health, your doctor may press on your abdomen to check for tumors or an abnormal buildup of fluid. If there is suspicious abdominal swelling, your doctor will withdraw fluid using needle aspiration.

What to expect
Your skin above the mass will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution. If needed, a local anesthetic will be numb the area of the swelling. A long, very fine needle is inserted and withdrawn suctioning out the fluid.  This may be done more than once to see that enough material has been collected for testing. Other aspirations may be performed in the space surrounding your ovaries or other sites within the pelvic cavity. The  procedure takes 10-15 minutes.

The collected material will be sent to a lab for testing.Results are usually available in 3-4 working days.

Pelvic Exam
If cancer is suspected, your doctor will also perform a pelvic examination to look for unusual growths or small masses of tissue.
What to expect
Very few preparations are required before the exam.
  • Do not use douches, tampons, vaginal medications, or vaginal sprays or powders for at least 24 hours beforehand.
  • The examination will be similar to ones performed for your annual pap test. Your physician will insert gloved fingers into the vagina and will palpate the skin of the area with the other hand looking for any unusual growths.  Masses can be caused by benign growths, but cancer may be suspected if a mass is found that is relatively large and is solid. 
  • Your doctor will look for small growths on the floor of the pelvis, which may indicate cancer.

Finally, a pap test may be performed. While used to detect cervical cancer, the pap sample may have a few ovarian cancer cells, confirming a diagnosis.  The doctor will use a small brush or a wooden spatula to gently collect a sample of cervical cells.

The entire pelvic exam takes about 10 minutes. After the exam is finished, you will be given a washcloth or tissue to wipe your vaginal area to remove any discharge resulting from the exam, and you will then dress.

While some test results may be available immediately, others may take from several days to a couple of weeks. Talk to your health professional about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, the risks, how it will be done, or what the results may indicate.