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Ovarian Cancer Screening Guidelines

South Texas has unusually high rates of gynecological cancer, particularly in young women. Evidence shows certain factors, such as having BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations, can increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer.

At Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, we offer comprehensive ovarian cancer screenings for women at increased risk.

What you need to know about ovarian cancer and screening

  • Ovarian cancer affects the ovaries, the egg-containing organs of the female reproductive system. Ovarian cancer often causes vague symptoms, such as bloating or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full early, and urgent or frequent urination. These nonspecific symptoms make ovarian cancer challenging to detect in early stages, when it may be more responsive to treatment.
  • One in five ovarian cancers is hereditary (caused by inherited gene changes that run in families). Genetic testing and counseling help us identify and manage your risk of one day developing ovarian or other cancers. Read more about our cancer genetics and high-risk screening clinic.
  • If you have an increased risk for ovarian cancer, your doctor may recommend regular screening for ovarian cancer, even if you have no symptoms. Screening may detect cancer at early stages so you can get treatment sooner.
  • Check with your insurance provider before scheduling an ovarian cancer screening exam. If your plan does not cover the cost of these tests, we will work with you to discuss your options.
  • If you have ovarian cancer, you can trust the experts at Mays Cancer Center. Research shows that people with ovarian cancer experience improved outcomes and other advantages when they get treatment from gynecologic oncologists. Our gynecologic oncologists deliver research-based ovarian cancer care personalized to your needs. Learn more about our gynecologic oncology program.

Learn more about ovarian cancer screening

If you’re at high risk for ovarian cancer, you may benefit from regular screening tests. Call the experts at our Gynecologic Oncology Clinic to discuss what’s right for you. Contact us at 210-450-1000.

Ovarian cancer screening guidelines

Being familiar with your body (like knowing what’s typical for your menstrual cycle) can help detect problems early. If you notice or feel like something’s not right, call your gynecologist.

Missing a period for four months in a row should always be evaluated. Rarely, this can be a sign of ovarian cancer.

Right now, we recommend only women at high risk for ovarian cancer get screened. You should be screened if you have any of the following risk factors:

  • BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, or if you suspect you may have one of these gene mutations
  • One close relative (like a mother or sister) with ovarian cancer associated with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
  • Lynch syndrome (hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer), which can also cause a hereditary form of colon cancer

If you have an increased ovarian cancer risk, we recommend you receive two screening tests once or twice a year. For patients who have BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, we recommend these screening exams every six months:

  • Transvaginal ultrasound: This imaging technique (a type of pelvic ultrasound) involves guiding a wand-shaped imaging tool into the vagina. It can show clear detail of the female reproductive organs, including possible signs of cancer.
  • CA-125 blood test: This blood test checks your blood for a protein (cancer antigen 125) that most ovarian cancer cells make.

Women with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation who do not wish to have biological children may benefit from risk-reducing surgery. Ask your doctor about whether salpingo-oophorectomy (surgery to remove your fallopian tubes and ovaries) could help protect your long-term health.

If you have experienced ovarian cancer before, you have unique screening needs. Our doctors develop a personalized screening plan to help detect possible recurrence (cancer return).