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Symptoms & Diagnosis

Wilmot Cancer Institute provides the full spectrum of ovarian cancer care, from initial diagnosis and treatment to recovery and rehabilitation.

We work in multidisciplinary teams. Multidisciplinary means that our care providers are experts with a variety of specialties: gynecological oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, nurse practitioners, social workers, and clinical researchers. They work together on your case to provide the most personalized care possible.

Ovarian cancer symptoms

Getting an accurate diagnosis is essential to getting the best treatment. When ovarian cancer is found early, about 94 percent of women reach or exceed the five-year mark after diagnosis. However, early cancers often have no symptoms. Women are more likely to experience signs and symptoms when the disease has begun to spread. Seeing a gynecologist annually and reporting anything unusual is important. Symptoms include: 

  • Gas or bloating
  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • Feeling full quickly after eating
  • Vaginal discharge or abnormal bleeding
  • Urgency to urinate frequently. 

​How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?

Medical history and physical examination: This includes a complete medical history and assessment of risk factors and symptoms. The physical exam will include a pelvic examination, which involves checking the vagina, cervix, uterus, and ovaries for signs of disease.

Richard Moore MD

Ultrasound: This test uses sounds waves to take pictures of internal body structures. A pelvic ultrasound involves placing a transducer on the skin of the lower abdomen after a woman has taken in enough liquids to have a full bladder. Some patients might also have a transvaginal ultrasound to look at the uterus and ovaries. For this test, the transducer is inserted into the vagina.

ROMA test (Risk of Ovarian Malignancy Algorithm): If a mass is detected on an ovary or in the pelvic region, this test uses biomarkers to determine if it is cancerous. Richard Moore, M.D., the director of Wilmot’s gynecologic oncology division, led the team that developed the ROMA test. He is a leading international expert on the use of biomarkers as detection tools.

CA 125 test: This measures the blood level of CA 125, a protein that’s released by cells that can be a sign of ovarian cancer. CA 125 can also be used to monitor patients who are being treated for ovarian cancer, to see how the patient is responding to therapy or to detect the presence of new tumors. CA 125 is often a biomarker for ovarian cancer when HE4 is not.

HE4 test: This measures the blood level of HE4, a protein that’s released by ovarian cancer cells. HE4 can also be used to monitor patients who are being treated for ovarian cancer, to see how the patient is responding to therapy or to detect the presence of new tumors. HE4 is often a biomarker for ovarian cancer when CA125 is not.

Imaging tests: These include CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans, to identify malignancies.

Laparoscopy: A doctor uses a thin, lighted tube with a small camera to inspect the ovaries and pelvic region for signs of cancer. During this procedure, doctors can also remove small amounts of tissue for examination by a pathologist (called a biopsy). Often when ovarian cancer is suspected, the entire tumor is removed.