It can be hard to catch ovarian cancer in its early stages. One of the best ways to diagnose it is to have ovarian cancer tests run in a laboratory.
If you or a loved one have been suffering from the symptoms of ovarian cancer, have a family history, or you've been diagnosed and want to check on your treatment, it's a good idea to get yourself tested.
If you're looking for more information about ovarian cancer lab tests and how they can help, read on.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is an uncontrolled cell growth in a woman's reproductive system, originating within the ovaries. The ovaries are responsible for regulating estrogen and progesterone hormones, and releasing an egg cell during a woman's monthly cycle.
There are three main types of ovarian cancer, based on where the abnormality originates. The most common type is epithelial tumors, where the cells grow in excess on the outer surface of the ovaries.
Less than two percent of ovarian cancer results from germ cell tumors, which start as egg cells or the cells that produce them. The last type, stromal tumors, originate in the connective tissue or cells that regulate hormones, and are very rare.
How Do They Check for Ovarian Cancer?
A doctor may do a physical exam, ultrasound test, or bloodwork (such as the CA-125 cancer marker test) to determine if you have ovarian cancer. For many types of ovarian cancer, it is impossible to determine whether the tumor is malignant, borderline, or benign until after you have had it removed and/or had a biopsy.
Causes and Risk Factors
The causes for developing ovarian cancer are still unknown. Research is ongoing to determine possible causes or links between ovarian cancer and ovulation or an egg cell's release. Genetic changes and mutations that cause ovarian cancer are still being studied.
Risk factors for developing epithelial ovarian cancer include age, being overweight or obese, never having a full pregnancy or getting pregnant past 35 years of age, taking hormone therapy, having a family history of cancer, having a fertility treatment such as in-vitro fertilization, smoking, and having breast cancer.
Signs and Symptoms
Some common warning signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- Bloating or feeling full too quickly
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Problems with urination such as needing to go often or badly
- Pain during sex
- Back pain
- Upset stomach
- Changes in menstrual cycle
It's important to note that many women with early ovarian cancer do not have symptoms. Besides that, many of the symptoms are fairly common or could not be linked to ovarian cancer.
If you or a loved one are experiencing a combination of these ovarian cancer symptoms, it's a good idea to get a screening test just to be safe. It is less likely to get an ovarian cancer diagnosis in the early stages because these symptoms don't typically present themselves until the later stages.
Ovarian Cancer Tests
There are a few ovarian cancer lab tests for cancer monitoring to detect changes in cancer markers.
The CA-125 monitoring test is a blood test that monitors the amount of a certain tumor marker known as CA-125 in the blood. This test has benefits for tracking patients over time who have already had cancer, since your doctor can watch to make sure levels stay low. If levels ever have a sharp increase, the cancer may be back.
The CA-125 test is not as useful for diagnosing ovarian cancer, since a small percentage of healthy women have naturally high levels of this marker. Besides, there may also be instances of ovarian cancer in the body, even when the levels are low.
The OVA1® Test is an aid to help evaluate an ovarian mass for cancer where malignancy is present when the physician's independent clinical and radiological evaluation does not indicate malignancy. OVA1 accurately “detected 94% of cancers in women of all ages” compared with 77% found by using CA 125.
The He4 cancer monitoring test is a newer tumor marker test with the same function as the CA-125 test. This cancer monitoring test looks for a different cancer marker in the blood. This test is still new, so more research may be needed to determine if this test may one day help us diagnose ovarian cancer.
Other tests including an MRI or CAT scan test can help your doctor determine if you have a cyst or tumor in your ovaries or anywhere else in your abdomen. Your doctor may also recommend an ultrasound test, which is quick and can be accurate enough to determine if there are larger tumors or cysts.
These tests cannot determine whether the tumor or cyst is malignant, or cancerous. A biopsy of the tumor in a laboratory can determine if the growth is malignant, borderline, or benign.
Another type of cancer testing preventative test is the BRCA1/2 genetic mutation test. This test looks for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes, which constitute a higher risk for developing ovarian and breast cancer.
These tests are only recommended for those who may have a genetic predisposition to cancer, and do not tell whether you have active ovarian cancer or a current illness.
Benefits of Getting Tested
The benefits of cancer lab testing are that you can be prepared in the event of a future ovarian cancer diagnosis. Getting a baseline for your CA-125 or He4 levels can help you to stay informed about your body in order for you and your physician to make informed decisions about your health.
There's no need for insurance or doctor's referrals to order your tests online. You can get secure and confidential results online within 24 to 48 hours for most tests. This can help you to keep track of your condition to make sure you're on the path to recovery, and alert you if there are any changes.
Make sure to consult with a doctor or other medical professional if you're unsure about what the results of your tests might mean. It's important to get treatment for cancer from a medical professional.
Take Charge of Your Health
If you or a loved one are in need of ovarian cancer tests for monitoring your condition, you don't have to wait for insurance or a doctor's referral. You can order your tests online with Ulta Lab Tests and take charge of your health today.