Ovarian Cancer: Tests After Diagnosis

Ovarian Cancer: Tests After Diagnosis

What tests might I have after being
diagnosed?

If your first tests and exams
strongly suggest that you have ovarian cancer, you’ll likely have other tests. These
tests help your healthcare providers learn more about your cancer. They can help
show if the cancer has grown into nearby areas or spread to other parts of your
body. The test results help your healthcare providers decide the best ways to treat
the cancer. If you have any questions about these or other tests, talk with your
healthcare team.

The tests you may have can
include:

  • Chest X-ray

  • Positron emission
    tomography (PET) scan

  • Colonoscopy

  • Laparoscopy

  • Genetic
    testing

Imaging tests

Chest X-ray

This test is done to see if
the cancer has spread to your lungs.

PET scan

This test is used to look
for cancer throughout your body. Your healthcare provider puts a small amount of
a radioactive sugar into your blood. He or she does this by putting a needle
into one of the veins on your arm or hand. Over about an hour or so, it’s taken
up by active cells in your body that need a lot of energy. This includes cancer
cells. A special camera then scans your body to look for collections of the
sugar. These show up as “hot spots” on the scan. They may be a sign of
cancer.

Colonoscopy

For this test, you’re put
into a deep sleep. Your healthcare provider puts a long, lighted tube into your
rectum and colon. Colonoscopy is used to see if cancer has spread to the colon
or rectum, or if the cancer might have started in the colon itself.

Laparoscopy

You’re put into a deep sleep
for this test. Your healthcare provider then makes a small cut (incision) in
your belly (abdomen). He or she then puts a long thin tube into the cut. This
tube sends pictures to a computer screen. This lets your healthcare provider
look closely at your ovaries and the inside of your abdomen. Your provider can
use small tools through the tube to take out tissues samples if he or she sees
spots that may be cancer. This test helps your provider see if and how far the
cancer has spread.

Genetic
testing

Many experts agree that genetic testing and counseling should
be part of diagnosing ovarian cancer. All women who have ovarian cancer should
be tested at the time of diagnosis or as soon as possible for certain types of
gene changes (mutations). Genetic testing can be done with blood, saliva, or
pieces of the tumor. Testing can help guide treatment decisions. Testing might
include:

  • BRCA 1 and BRCA 2
    testing.

    Changes in the BRCA 1 and BRAC 2 genes can mean that
    certain treatments are more likely to work for epithelial ovarian
    cancer. These genetic changes might be “germline” mutations. This means
    they’re inherited and present in all our cells at birth. They can be
    found in cells from your blood or saliva. This type of gene change can
    be passed in families (inherited). If you have germline gene mutation,
    your family (blood relative) may want to discuss their options for
    getting tested with a qualified genetic counselor. (All genetic
    evaluations should be done by trained clinicians that know about
    hereditary cancer syndrome.)

    If you don’t have germline BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations,
    you can still have mutations that develop after conception in these
    genes (somatic mutations). These changes are not passed on in families,
    but happen after birth and found only in the cancer cells.

    Tumor testing is done to check for these changes
    (mutations). The tests are done on a small piece of the tumor.
    Sometimes, tumor testing isn’t done unless the cancer comes back
    (recurs) after treatment. this information can help guide further
    treatment decisions.

  • DNA mismatch repair testing.

    Women with clear cell, endometroid, or mucinous
    ovarian cancer should be offered tumor testing for mismatch repair
    deficiency (dMMR). To do this, tumor cells are tested to see if there’s
    a problem in repairing damaged DNA. Normally, when cells grow and
    divide, DNA is copied to go into the new cells. A system called the DNA
    mismatch repair system looks for and fixes mistakes made when the DNA
    divides and makes copies of itself. When this system isn’t working
    mistakes happen. Over time, these mistakes or (mutations) can build up
    and may cause cancer. Results of this test can help guide treatment if
    ovarian cancer comes back.

Working with your healthcare
provider

Your healthcare provider will
talk with you about which tests you’ll have. Make sure to get ready for the tests
as
instructed. Ask questions and talk about any concerns you have.