Does Ovarian Cancer Show Up on Blood Work?

Reviewed on 5/6/2021

A person with ovarian cancer may have high levels of a substance called the CA-125 (cancer or carcinoma antigen-125) in the blood.
A person with ovarian cancer may have high levels of a substance called the CA-125 (cancer or carcinoma antigen-125) in the blood.

A person with ovarian cancer may have high levels of a substance called the CA-125 (cancer or carcinoma antigen-125) in the blood. CA-125 antigen is known by several other names, such as ovarian cancer antigen and CA-125 tumor marker. It is a protein present on the surface of most (but not all) ovarian cells. Thus, significantly high levels of CA-125 may be seen in the blood of ovarian cancer patients. Since all ovarian cancer types do not possess this protein, not all women with ovarian cancer will have high blood levels of CA-125.

CA-125 may be elevated in several noncancerous conditions, such as

Hence, elevated CA-125 levels do not definitely mean that the person has ovarian cancer. The CA-125 blood test is not recommended for screening women with low to moderate ovarian cancer risk. The test, nonetheless, does have several important uses, such as

What happens during a CA-125 blood test for ovarian cancer?

The CA-125 blood test is a simple test during which a health care professional collects a blood sample from a vein in the arm by using a small needle. The collection hardly takes five minutes, and no special preparation for the test is needed. There may be slight stinging when the needle goes in and out of the skin. There could also be a little pain or bruising at the needle site, but it goes away on its own without generally causing any significant discomfort. The test results will be assessed by the doctor, who may take a gynecologist’s help if needed.

What are the symptoms of ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer may or may not present with any significant symptoms. Ovarian cancer is rarely diagnosed in its early stages due to the lack of any typical signs and symptoms. When present, the symptoms may include

Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge (vaginal bleeding in postmenopausal women should not be ignored)

The presence of these symptoms does not necessarily mean ovarian cancer. Nonetheless, consult a doctor at the earliest so that a timely diagnosis may be made.

QUESTION

Where does ovarian cancer occur? See Answer

How do doctors diagnose ovarian cancer?

Doctors may diagnose ovarian cancer by

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References
American Cancer Society. Tests for Ovarian Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html

Medline Plus. CA-125 Blood Test (Ovarian Cancer). https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/ca-125-blood-test-ovarian-cancer/

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