No screening test for ovarian cancer is considered accurate enough to use on the general population.

A manual pelvic exam can reveal several health problems but is likely to miss many ovarian cancers.

Those at high risk of ovarian cancer may be screened with transvaginal ultrasound, which can find a mass in the pelvis but not determine whether it is cancerous. A blood test for elevated levels of the cancer antigen (CA)-125, a protein, is useful in women known to have ovarian cancer but is not an accurate way to diagnose the disease. High CA-125 levels can occur in people who have conditions unrelated to ovarian cancer, and tests for this antigen can miss people with ovarian cancer who don’t express a lot of this protein.

If screening or symptoms suggest ovarian cancer, a doctor will use imaging to look for a tumor. This can include CT, MRI or positron emission tomography scans or laparoscopy, in which a thin, lighted tube is threaded through a small abdominal incision to send images of the ovaries and other pelvic organs to a video monitor.

If a mass is found, a piece will need to be removed (biopsied), usually surgically, and then analyzed in a lab. If ovarian cancer is present, it will be given a stage ranging from 1 (indicating that the cancer hasn’t spread beyond the site of origin) to 4 (indicating that it has spread to distant parts of the body). These cancers are also assigned a grade of 1 through 3 or classified as low grade or high grade to indicate how different from normal the cancer cells are. High-grade cancers are more likely to grow quickly and spread.

A patient who receives a diagnosis of ovarian cancer should undergo genetic testing using blood or saliva to find out if an inherited gene mutation is the cause of the disease. This information can help guide treatment, alert a woman that she should be screened for additional cancers and make family members aware that they might also have an inherited predisposition to cancer.