Can A CT Scan Detect Ovarian Cancer?

CT scans can detect some ovarian cancers but not all.  CT scans can tell us that there is a pelvic mass but it can not say whether it is cancer.  CT will also often not detect smaller ovarian masses or provide enough detail to make a diagnosis of cancer.

What are symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Often ovarian cancer is diagnosed in later stages, after it has spread in the pelvis or beyond. Early symptoms may be absent or vague.  Symptoms can include: abdominal bloating, pressure in the pelvis, changes in urination, painful intercourse to name some.

Is there a screening test for ovarian cancer?

Not at this time.  A pelvic exam can not detect cancer early in many cases.  Imaging and blood tests done on average risk women for ovarian cancer did not reduce the number of deaths and can result in unnecessary invasive testing and surgery.

What is the best scan to detect ovarian cancer?

There is not one best test.  Pelvic ultrasound is frequently done to image the ovaries in detail.  We can often see cysts or masses but can not tell if they are cancerous.  There are certain imaging features which make a cyst or lesion more suspicious for cancer.

Can CT show ovarian cancer?

CT scans can show us an ovarian cancer when it is larger.  CT is best for determining where the cancer has spread. CT can miss small cancers.  CT can not tell us a pelvic mass is cancerous or whether it arises from the ovary or somewhere else in the pelvis.

What does ovarian cancer look like on CT?

We usually don’t see early stage ovarian cancer on CT.  Sometimes we may see a cyst or small mass in the pelvis that them undergoes closer imaging evaluation with ultrasound and turns out to be cancerous.

More commonly we see a large complex mass in the pelvis.  There can be spread of the tumor elsewhere in the body with common sites being the lymph nodes, liver, and lining of the abdomen (peritoneum).  We can see ascites or fluid in the abdomen in advanced cases.

Is mri or ct better for ovarian cancer?

MRI has many advantages to CT for ovarian cancer, but they are complementary tests.  MRI is good at showing where the mass is coming from (ovary versus uterus or somewhere else).

MRI also can help us evaluate cysts or masses found on other imaging tests.  We can assign risk to the pelvic lesion using a standardized system (o-rads MRI) which is on a scale of 1-5. 5 being highest risk for ovarian cancer.

Can ovarian cysts show up on CT scan?

Yes, many can.  We do not see as much detail about the cysts as on ultrasound and MRI.  We can not tell whether a cyst is cancerous.  An ultrasound is often recommended when we see a cyst on CT to get a better look at it.

How is ovarian cancer diagnosed?

A combination of testing is used.  This includes imaging tests like pelvic ultrasound.  Blood tests that measure CA-125 which is commonly high in patients who have ovarian or fallopian tube cancer.  A biopsy of the tumor during surgery to remove the cancer will allow a more definitive diagnosis.

How is ovarian cancer treated?

Care is often coordinated by a gynecologic oncologist.  Treatment may consist of a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.  Often patient are followed for disease status with blood markers like CA-125 and imaging tests like CT.

Can a CT scan detect ovarian cancer: summary

Some ovarian cancers can be detected on CT.  Many are unfortunately large and have spread at the time of diagnosis.  Early ovarian cancers are difficult to detect and there is no good screening test at this time.

If a cyst or smaller mass is detected on CT in the pelvis, often additional imaging is recommended with ultrasound to get a closer look.  Further management of suspicious lesions can be done by a specialized gynecologic oncologist.


Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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