Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers because it’s usually not discovered until it has spread.

A CT scan is sometimes taken in women who have symptoms suspicious for ovarian cancer.

But does this mean that a CT scan is a reliable tool for detecting this stealthy killer?

“There is no screening test for ovarian cancer,” says Robin Cohen, former oncology RN and currently the CEO and co-founder of the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation.

“A CT scan, MRI or ultrasound can diagnose ovarian cancer in advanced stages once a mass is large enough to see on a radiographic test. The most effective way to diagnose ovarian cancer is through surgery.”

An image doesn’t confirm malignancy. The mass has to be removed surgically and then sent to a pathology lab for a biopsy before an official diagnosis is made.

What also needs to be considered is the unacceptably high false positive rate that an MRI and ultrasound yield.

A false positive is when a mass has features indicative of malignancy—and the patient then faces weeks or months of profound anxiety over further tests, waiting, scheduling surgery and then undergoing surgery – and the biopsy turns out negative.

Unfortunately, our medical technology isn’t advanced enough to avoid these mishaps.

And a sure-fire non-invasive way of confirming ovarian cancer isn’t exactly on the horizon, either.

Cohen also explains, “A CT scan should not be used as a stand-alone method to rule out ovarian cancer as a possible reason for symptoms, but coupled with the CA-125 blood test it can add to the bigger picture and lead to a diagnosis.”

So though a doctor may strongly suspect ovarian cancer based on CT scan and CA-125 results, and thus want to move ahead with a surgical excision, the actual diagnosis is made by the pathologist after viewing the excised tissue’s cells under a microscope.

Keilana CC

The Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation, Inc., strives to fight for women who are fighting, speak for those who have fallen silent and provide for those working towards the end of ovarian cancer.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/Alexander Raths